I first experienced an Ofsted inspection as a teacher in the early 1990s. The notice period was months long and fraught with highly charged meetings on a near daily basis. The sole and total focus of the colleges during that period was the forthcoming inspection – not the students, not teaching and learning, but the inspection and the impression that the inspectors would get of the school during the time they were with us.
Times have changed considerably since then, thank goodness. No longer does the notice period hang over colleges, obliterating normal day to day functioning. While the notion of inspection isn’t exactly welcomed by all, the process is at least more transparent, and many Ofsted myths are successfully being busted by staff in the know.
So what do you need to know about Ofsted inspection? Sean Harford, Ofsted National Director for Education, is keen to ensure that schools know that they should not be doing “Mocksteds” ahead of an Ofsted inspection. Some colleges are putting staff through mock inspections to try to anticipate the areas that might be picked up in a real inspection. The additional stress this may cause is thought to be entirely counter-productive. Ofsted wants to see your college as it usually operates. Put on a show, and savvy inspectors will undoubtedly detect the lack of authenticity.
If you’re new to inspection, or facing the prospect of an imminent revisit, these points may help:
- Lessons are not graded! Ofsted says: “We don’t grade the quality of teaching or outcomes in the individual lessons visited.”
- Ofsted doesn’t specify any detail about the form that planning should take. Inspectors want to see that planning is effective, but not necessarily detailed or time-consuming.
- Self-evaluation needs to take the form that works for your college. Ofsted wants to know it’s part of what happens in your college, although it is not prescriptive about the format – evaluation could be a discussion with leaders – and feeds into change for the better.
- Ofsted doesn’t expect to see a particular type of work in students’ books or coursework.
- Assessment is for schools to decide. Ofsted has no expectations over the style and timing of assessments. Inspectors will simply want to see that school’s policy on assessment is being adhered to effectively.
- Inspectors won’t recommend improvements involving marking, unless the college’s assessment policy isn’t being followed by most lecturers.
- You shouldn’t need to prepare anything specifically for inspection.
- Ofsted’s main focus and interest is impact. It might be useful to ask: how can I demonstrate positive impact on the students in this college?
If you have any questions at all about the Ofsted inspection process, the best place to go for answers is the Further Education & Skills Inspection Handbook. It’s well worth thinking about inspection as a welcome professional learning experience. Naturally, some may have reservations, but being fully informed about what inspection is all about is by far the best preparation we could ever do.
Find out more
If you feel that your college is labouring under misconceptions about Ofsted inspection, you can contact Ofsted via their website: gov.uk/ofsted or via twitter: @ofstednews