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Ann Pritchard, Her Majesty’s Inspector, takes us through a short inspection

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: inspection, schools

As I reflect on a recent short inspection of a good school, I recall how intensive these days can be. Reaching an accurate judgement on the quality of education requires detailed preparation and a clear focus. There's a lot of evidence to gather and it must be thorough.

The initial call

I get in touch with the school the day before. This initial contact is crucial. It helps to establish a relationship with the headteacher ahead of the inspection. I explain the process, making sure that I’m clear and precise. This is a chance for the headteacher to ask any questions. All the preparation is to ensure that tomorrow starts on a positive note.

The day of the inspection

I sign in at the agreed time, following the school’s procedures and read the safeguarding information. Staff are helpful and the headteacher shows me to my work space. Then it’s straight to work. Thanking the headteacher for the information sent to me, we then review the day’s schedule.

I meet the staff soon after arriving. It’s important that they recognise the visitor in their school. I emphasise that they should carry on as normal. I also meet parents. I’m encouraged to hear them speak so positively about the school and I take every opportunity to gather evidence.

Next I start to look at the effectiveness of safeguarding in the school, which is one of the two key judgements on these one day inspections. From my review, the systems appear to be working and the school is doing a thorough job ensuring their pupils’ safety. However, I will need to do a bit more work to establish if safeguarding is embedded throughout the school. I will talk to pupils and staff during the day to see how everything works in practice.

Working with the headteacher

It’s important that inspections are carried out ‘with’ the school, rather than ‘done to’ the school. These inspections are especially intensive for the headteacher. I sit with her and review the school’s self-evaluation and improvement planning. What does the school consider as their strengths? How are they tackling the areas for improvement from the previous inspection? From our conversation we agree the focus for the inspection.

Together we visit classes, ensuring that the headteacher is included as much as possible in my evidence gathering. I spend time in lessons, look at pupils’ books and talk to pupils and staff.

Every minute counts. I need to gather as much useful evidence as possible. Discussing the teaching and learning with the headteacher gives me another opportunity to review the quality of the leadership. She appreciates the time to talk about what I’ve seen.

Next it’s off to playtime where I talk to more pupils. This is where I gather further important evidence. Then it’s time to reflect and consider the emerging picture. What is the evidence telling me so far? I’ll need to make a decision soon on whether to convert to a full inspection to gather any additional evidence I need and carry on tomorrow.

There’s more evidence gathering: I visit classes and review books. I have discussions with pupils and listen to some of them read. And I meet all 12 governors. Next I speak with the local authority representative who provides more positive feedback. Then I check the current attendance figures.

I take more time to reflect over a quick snack. Does the evidence confirm that the school remains good? Do I need more evidence? I review what I’ve gathered and look at the questionnaire responses collected from the parents via Parent View.

Everything points to the school remaining good. I explain my decision not to convert today to a full inspection to the headteacher. She looks pleased and leaves the room smiling.

I gather and sort my evidence, double checking I haven’t missed anything. Then I bring it all together in a final summary evaluation.

The final discussion

It’s 5pm and school leaders, governors and diocese representatives gather in a classroom. As I review the evidence gathered I outline the strengths and areas for development. I ask if there are any concerns about the inspection or my conduct. And I’m thanked for my fairness and the thoroughness of the inspection.

I leave happy in the knowledge that in this school, children are getting a good quality of education. I know that the school leaders will be working hard to make even more improvements in the future.

Feedback is very important to me. I always check to see if a post inspection survey has been completed by leaders. This helps me to know if I am getting the balance right. I strive to ‘do good as I go’ and help promote Ofsted as a force for improvement.

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  1. Comment by Richard Woolf posted on

    I'm a retired headteacher and school improvement consultant who is now involved in a newly formed MAT. The above encourages me hugely if every Inspector carries out the short inspections in the same way. I wouldn't even mind having a go again myself at these one day visits they seem a lot of hard work but great fun!
    Very enjoyable and easy to read article well done OFSTED

  2. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Hi Richard,

    Thanks very much for those comments - it's always good to know the blog is well-received.

  3. Comment by Liz posted on

    After reading your article I asked my LA who would attend as their representative when we have an inspection and was told there is no one automatically available unless you are a 'cause for concern' school in the borough. We are not but is this likely to be an issue at inspection?

  4. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Hi, the headteacher is usually informed that a representative will be invited to the final feedback meeting, and asked if there is a contact for the inspector to meet or have a telephone conversation with about the school’s performance.

  5. Comment by Ian Preston posted on

    This was really interesting and insightful. Thanks for sharing.