Having been through four inspections over the last ten years, I decided to apply to train as an additional inspector and recently completed the second round of training before I commence shadow inspections. My reason is simple: to stay one step ahead of the constant changes to the framework and subsidiary guidance.
I’m going to firstly dispel some myths surrounding inspection and then provide some words of advice following the January 2014 updates.
True or false?
1. Each Inspector on the team will contribute to each of the judgments.
True: Whilst individual team members will take an area of responsibility, all team members will contribute to the corporate decision.
2. Schools must share a summary of their self-evaluation before the inspection.
False: I would encourage schools to prepare a very short summary and either hand this to the team on the day or email one across. Find a copy of my template. If you don’t have one at hand, I’d ask the question “how does the school evaluate?”
3. Inspectors will aggregate the grades awarded after lesson observations to inform the judgment on the quality of teaching
False: Inspectors will collate data over the day; however, they do this to ensure that they have attempted to cover each of the key stages, ensuring breadth of cover. As once heard, Inspectors don’t have a formulaic approach: for example, in an outstanding school, X% of lessons need to be graded as ‘good’ or better.
4. Teachers should not be observed more than once
False: You could be observed more than once, for example if a particular trail needs to be investigated or even by mistake!
5. Inspectors must listen to lower attaining pupils read during inspection
False: In primary schools, inspectors must listen to pupils, but this isn’t always the case in a secondary school
6. Inspectors will take account of responses in Parent View and follow up any serious issues with the school
True: Inspectors may or may not share this with the school, depending on the nature of the concern, but they will investigate.
7. After a joint observation, senior members of staff must give their views on the quality of teaching and learning
True: Not just teaching and learning, but also behaviour and safety and achievement. This does still surprise some senior colleagues when they offer a holistic grade. Ofsted do not grade lessons: they grade the aspects.
Points to note:
In January, Sir Michael Wilshaw (SMW) forwarded a letter to inspectors, outlining his frustration, as reports were and some are still not following the guidance. I found a copy on twitter via Helen Myer’s blog.
Sir Michael has also asked his team to review older reports, and as identified by @oldandrew, a number of reports have been re-written following their initial publication! I’d imagine a few P45s also in the post!
So what does this mean for the classroom teacher who’s going to be observed by an inspector? Well, I’d recommend having SMW’s letter in hand and not expecting any of the points that he had referred to in the ‘Please, please,’ request letter.
I’d imagine some schools haven’t noted the changes to the subsidiary guidance and framework from January 2014. Have a read of Heather Leatt’s blog. Heather has kindly highlighted the changes.
Do your senior colleagues still refer to the above? Are they in the process of changing practice?
Inspectors must not insist that there must be three years’ worth of data
Additionally, inspection teams have been known not to accept internal in-year data and also external reports such as ALPS. If this is the case, pick up the phone and ring through to the ISP to raise the issue.
For schools with sixth forms, take note that if you have Level 2 provision, this does impact the calculated retention figure. You may need to work this out yourself!
Behaviour and safety
Inspectors should identify disruptive behaviour of any kind. This may be overt, for example, ‘shouting out’, or pupils ‘talking over the teacher’, or ‘arguing back’, or low level disruption, for example, through continuous chatter, not bringing the right equipment to lessons, not having books or doing homework, pupils arriving late to lessons, pupils chatting when they are supposed to be working together or pupils being slow to settle to their work and so on. It may also be more covert, taking the form, for example, of quiet reluctance from a number of pupils to participate in group work or to cooperate with each other.
Source: Page 21 of the Subsidiary Guidance January 2014
The red highlighted areas reflect changes from January. Whilst I agree with the points made, I do hope Inspectors take a common-sense approach, particularly when judging the following:
134 When judging behaviour and safety, inspectors should consider:
pupils’ respect for the school’s learning environments (including by not dropping litter) facilities and equipment, and adherence to school uniform policies
Source: Ofsted School Inspection Handbook January 2014.
You can imagine the tabloid headline - ‘Outstanding school loses previous accolade due to appalling levels of crisp packets.’ Watch this space
A word of warning: even though Governors are in the main volunteers, if they do not hit the mark, the school can be downgraded. Have a look at this report (I’ve removed the name of the school).
If you haven’t got a member of staff on your leadership team trained as an inspector, I’d recommended it highly, even if it’s just to know how Ofsted operate. I’ll continue to provide updates following my new learning.