Thought Leadership:
Are you inspection ready?

I have found myself using this phrase a lot lately – at SLT meetings, talking with middle leaders, at Appraisal meetings and in staff briefings. I thought I knew what I meant by the phrase but have found myself questioning this as I struggle to find the balance between evidence for Inspections and continual good practice to ensure successful outcomes for students.

At my school, we are in full swing of OfSTED preparation and I am gathering those final pieces of evidence to dangle in front of the lead inspector and hope for the chance to demonstrate progress from OUR perspective not theirs. Asking one person for case study X and ensuring another is fully confident with progress matrices as well as the doubling up on extra evidence to support statements in your SES – all this sometimes leads to me doubting OfSTED’s rationale and having the tiniest moan with colleagues about “jumping through hoops”. The innovative careers guidance work, the Post 16 excellence, the regionally celebrated inclusion strategies, the fabulous extra-curricular achievements and the fantastic community initiatives all invisible it seems apart from a couple of statements in the SES and, if we are lucky, in the OfSTED report narrative without troubling the scorers – those who score 1,2,3 or 4!

So, as for the phrase, “Inspection Ready”, I guess what I was probably saying was “have we got all the evidence trails together for an OfSTED inspection”?

I still DO mean this – but rather than the panic as inspection looms (REALLY?!) or as external reviews are in place or, for classroom teachers, as SLT reviews, learning walks, work sampling are nigh, we can avoid much of the stress and uncertainty by ensuring sound structures are in place to ensure the quality of outcome – we should not allow our quality assurance and self-evaluative systems to ‘drift’ after periods of intense scrutiny. The more we relax, the more cracks appear and the harder it is to ‘get back on track’ for whatever purpose you NEED to! I know this sounds obvious but it HAPPENS. We need to celebrate/commiserate/reflect or whatever is needed in the immediate aftermath of a verdict, but we are not helping teachers if we allow complacency to set in. YES – lets re-focus on our core values and on our daily jobs to provide quality education for all BUT do it under continuous self –review and ensure evidence is collected regularly and the ‘cracks’ are plugged quickly and effectively!

Much of the preparation for an inspection could and SHOULD be done systematically – surely we NEED to know at all times how the school is doing in terms of national measures – like it or not! The systems behind our evidence trails allow the quality of what we need to do to remain as they should be – honing outstanding teaching, addressing under-performance, holding people to account within reason and providing support where required.

No successful entity – (schools, companies, and countries??) performs well to produce the best possible outcomes without tight, regular, shared and understood systems at the heart of assuring quality and evaluating practice. If these systems are only employed during times of specific need, momentum is lost, poor practice creeps in and areas of weakness are missed.

So, then, if you have effective systems (BEFORE,  DURING and AFTER inspections) that ensure your school is working as it should, whole school strategies are clear, driven by middle leaders and shared – linked to development plans, quality assurance and self-evaluation to ensure the best possible outcomes for all, then you ARE:


(N.B. OFSTED outcomes NOT guaranteed!)

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