An Inspector Called (Head’s Blog Feb 2017)

Posted on 7 February 2017

Often when ‘an inspector calls’ schools endure a drama of injustice or inadequacy from inspectors of gnomic utterances and impenetrable criteria. How wonderful then to report on excellence on the part of the ISI and on the new quality of education system of inspection that we were lucky enough to find ourselves piloted for.

Not to say that this was my first response on receiving a call in the penultimate week of the autumn term from the chief inspector stating that we were to receive a no-notice inspection against 18 criteria most of us had never seen.

No, ‘how wonderful’ ‘how lucky we are’ were not phrases the Senior Leadership Team and teachers found themselves reaching for in the 24 hours we were given to prepare for this new inspection trial. We simply had almost no idea what to expect. And history had taught us to be wary.

Even a whistle-stop tour of changes in school inspection over the last 10 years makes for a depressing and dizzying read, so I will spare you the details, but suffice it to say that inspection had got further and further removed from pupils and more and more caught up in satisfying reams of safety regulations skidding out of the Department of Education.

But now for the first time in a while we have an inspection process that puts the pupils back at the core of the process. Here’s why:

  1. It has departed from a compliance-only model and now measures, as one might hope, the quality of education a school provides.
  1. An important aspect of compliance remains to ensure that safeguards are properly in place.
  1. The focus is on the pupils, their achievements and their personal development. – We, the teachers, the senior leaders, the Head, the estates, become ‘contributory factors’ only. Just as it should be.
  1. It is evidence-based, lean and efficient. Most of the evidence is collected over 3 inspection days through lots of communication with the pupils, seeing them in action in the classroom and outside of it, talking with them and seeing their work.
  1. There is little advance preparation required. They really do see the School as it is with minimal preliminary paperwork. Inspectors have access to an unvarnished experience and report an authentic and accurate picture of the school in session.

Inspections are there above all to let the school community and the world beyond it know how well a school performs. Its central performance is how well it looks after its pupils, how it identifies and develops their potential, understands them and helps them to thrive.

In our experience this is what the new inspection measures. It is a return to good sense and good assessment. Schools should be delighted.

St Albans High School For Girls Quality of Education and Focused Compliance Inspection Reports can be found at https://www.stahs.org.uk/about-us/isi-inspections/

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