Six inspection myths busted

15th January 2010 at 00:00
Former inspector Selwyn Ward dispels some popular misconceptions NQTs have about the Ofsted process

1. Inspectors don't go into lessons much any more This school year has seen a number of changes in the inspection system. Inspectors now focus more on gathering first-hand evidence on how pupils learn and the progress they are making. That means more time spent in classrooms and looking at work. Sometimes it will mean inspectors staying for a whole lesson, but it could also mean observing a small part of one.

You may also see an inspector pairing up with your headteacher for a "learning walk" together across each of the classrooms. Certainly you can expect to be offered feedback on any lesson where an inspector has spent at least 20 minutes or more.

2. The school will not have any idea what is happening until the end of the inspection Because it builds on school self-evaluation, inspection has increasingly been a partnership between inspectors and school leaders, and this has been further extended this year. You can expect your headteacher and other senior leaders to be directly engaged in the inspection.

The days of inspectors playing their cards close to their chest and announcing their findings at the end of the inspection are long gone. Having said that, inspection findings shared with the headteacher are provisional and remain confidential until the report is published, usually within three weeks.

3. Schools all get a visit every three years Inspections used to be on a broadly three-year cycle, with some selected for very light-touch one-day inspections. No longer. Schools judged "good" or "outstanding" can generally expect to be inspected once within a five-year period; those judged "satisfactory" will have their next inspection in three years and may receive a monitoring visit between their main Section 5 inspections.

However, schools causing concern will be visited much more frequently. In addition, Ofsted plans to publish an "interim statement report" for each "good" or "outstanding" school that does not have an inspection in the third year after its Section 5 inspection.

4. Inspectors will just turn up unannounced There has been some speculation about a proposal on which Ofsted consulted for "no notice" inspections. Schools causing concern and schools where specific concerns have been raised over pupils' welfare may well now be visited without notice. Short monitoring visits to schools previously judged as "satisfactory" may also be unannounced. But for most schools you can expect to have one or two days' notice at most for routine inspections. Ofsted's intention here is to get the balance right between reducing the pressure on schools and helping to ensure that inspectors see the school as it really is.

5. You just cannot expect some children to do well The other area of interest in the new inspection framework is the increased emphasis given to attainment, alongside learning and progress. Inspectors will still take account of pupils' starting points and the school's context, including the contextual value-added data based on previous years' results, but, where results are low, schools will need to show that pupils are making good or better progress if the school is to be judged at least "satisfactory" overall.

6. I'm just an NQT - inspectors won't want to talk to me Because they are spending more time in lessons, there is less emphasis than in the past on "interviews" with staff. This doesn't mean that inspectors won't want to talk to staff, and that may well include NQTs. Inspectors will talk with you about your lessons when they visit them and they may also ask you about the support you have been given in your induction year.

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