Feb 062013

Ofsted visited back in November. It’s fair to say it didn’t go well, and I guess at some point I’ll be compelled to write about the experience of working in a school in Special Measures. I was observed on day two after the management specifically requested that I was visited. The inspector spent quite a bit of time in the room, disappearing for 20 minutes and reappearing at the end of the double lesson to see the final outcomes.

Horizon Inspector

Horizon Inspector NJ 2012

I was truly proud of the students that day. We took over the Learning Resource Centre and prepared for an investigation into Henry VIII and his relationships with those around him. The students devised and put on a roleplay in the style of This Is Your Life. Roles were differentiated, the kids researched independently, coached each other for accents, wrote scripts and had great fun performing the final piece – which they directed entirely themselves. They paid little attention to the inspector who made copious note while giggling away in the corner.
I knew that the lesson had gone pretty well so I went for my “feedback session” fairly confident that I had done my best to represent the department and the School as a whole. Spirits fell at Mr Inspector’s somewhat ominous opening question… “I expect you thought that was outstanding”? After a few excruciating minutes, I learned that a couple of boys with genuine difficulties in behaviour had drifted off task for a moment. (The fact that that the same boys had produced excellent work and had found the confidence to act in front of the rest of the class was lost to the inspector.) The student playing the key role had been improvising joyfully and brilliantly throughout the final performance, but it was suggested that a second student could have been deployed in a support role. I pointed out that this was exactly what I had done (and had film evidence) I confess that when the class were called to order at the end of the lesson, I probably had to wait for a couple of seconds. This fact was picked up on.  Shucks.

The outcome of the lesson was Good. At the time I felt that I’d really let the school down. I was desperate to try and understand what more I could have done and particularly interested to know what Mr Inspector had been writing. A little research revealed that the Data Protection Act could be invoked to require Ofsted to release the evidence form used in my observation.

The procedure is very simple, and explained on the Ofsted site here. Simply email enquiries@ofsted.gov.uk and supply them with the following information…

Home address
Date of lesson
Time of lesson
Year group
Name of inspector
Details of lesson content

Include a photocopy of your driving license as proof of identy. There is no cost to you and the disclosure should take place within 40 days that Ofsted recieve the request. It’s important to do this quickly because the evidence base from a school inspection is usually destroyed six months after the publication of a report.
If one were feeling a little mischievous, and assuming that Ofsted inspect 6500 schools per year and look at around 30 lessons each time I calculate that if everyone took a couple of minutes to do the same, they’d be dealing with 250000 requests a year.

And here’s the actual Evidence form. I’ve read and re-read it. The focus was Challenge. I’m at a loss to understand how the challenge could have been higher, or that in reality I could ever teach better.