I enquired about an issue with @HarfordSean this week and he asked at the end – “What do you think of the new handbook?” I said something along the lines of, “Yeah, I like it…” in the same way as I like chino’s or sleeping cats… Meh! In truth I had hardly looked at it and felt I owed Sean a little more. My Advice! READ IT EVERYONE! It is not about pandering to a set Ofsted approach, it is common sense… So here goes.

My top 5 thoughts and personal highlights from the section 5 School Inspection Handbook! (YES, I am this lonely! I bet you so want to meet me at a party and say OPH tell me more about this Ofsted handbook!)… My tongue may be FIRMLY in my CHEEK for many of these.

Cue Led Zeppelin – Whole Lotta Love

At Number 5the Introduction:

  • This handbook is primarily a guide for inspectors (So – shut up teachers!) on how to carry out school inspections. However, it is made available to schools and other organisations to ensure that they are informed about the process and procedures of inspection. It seeks to balance the need for consistency in inspections with the flexibility required to respond to the individual circumstances of each school. It should not be regarded as a set of inflexible rules, but as an account of the procedures that govern inspection.

First Impressions… I feel that there are people at Ofsted who REALLY want to get this right (and I have plenty of personal experience to back this up now). You see the visible flinching at the word, ‘rogue’ and ‘inconsistency’. There are some key phrases in here (Inconsistency, balance and individual circumstances). But, any policy and inspection handbook is only as good as the people using it. If Ofsted had a penny for every time this has been said I am sure they could start their own free school.

At 4! Section 95 – procedures for judging a school inadequate

  • To ring the helpdesk, inspectors should use the hotline number 0300 123 4234 and choose option 1. When the call is answered, the lead inspector should use the following form of words

I felt a little uncomfortable thinking OFSTED and HOTLINE here. Just kept seeing inspectors in tight sequin pants…I also thought great! With that number we can officially PRANK CALL Ofsted.You may get sacked but what a laugh! I can just see my teacher friends all egging me on from the back of the pub on a Friday night after one too many single malts. “It’ll be hilarious!” They cry… “They even give you the PASSWORD!”

  • ‘I am an inspector leading an inspection in a school and I would like to talk to the schools causing concern duty HMI.’

This is someone in a dark room with a packed lunch just waiting for the red phone to ring! They may be in silver sequinned shorts.

If anyone EVER does this I will immediately condone this outrageous act of blatant disrespect! 

At 3! Section 29 – Inspectors’ Planning and Preparation

  • information available from the provider information portal (PIP), including any warning notices issued to maintained schools

WHO? Is this like Educational GCHQ? Are we being monitored secretly by these PIP people? Warning notices? Is this financial? Will I ever sleep again? Who’s that knocking at my door? What’s that strange buzz whenever I pick up my phone?

A New Entry at 2! Get that website… RIGHT!

  • statement on the use of the pupil premium,
  • in primary schools the PE and sport premium,
  • the statutory sharing with parents of curriculum information (so the lead inspector can start to assess the breadth and balance of the school’s curriculum and whether it is likely to promote preparation for and an appreciation of life in modern Britain),

‘Promote preparation for and an appreciation of life in modern Britain’? I have just been stuck in a Glastonbury traffic jam! Modern life is rubbish! But, great to see that phrase here… Broad and balanced – will schools with amazing data get a kicking for hot housing? Is this another thing to worry about?

Don’t get me on to the British Values diatribe… Does anyone have the list on this? You know? The British Values list, stiff upper lip, moaning, indifference, complaining, queuing, end of week drinking and voting for dogs on talent shows!

  • the special educational needs (SEN) information report,

I do hope you all have been writing one of these! If not Google it and nick the template from someone else.

  • the presence and suitability of the safeguarding guidance,

There’s no escaping it – SAFEGUARDING is the HOT topic. This is due to the fact that all the social workers have quit.

  • taking into account current government requirements,

Throw a dart! This means you must know what the hot topic of the month is…After SAFEGUARDING. No doubt you will be asked about it during inspection… “So, how are you promoting healthy British mathematical indifference?” BE PREPARED! Watch Question Time!


This is the myth busting section and after yesterday’s mass execution of all the inspectors I feel this is where the NEW handbook is at its most promising. This is where the new breed of inspectors will be trained and where all us moaning heads will complain when they inevitably get it wrong…

Clarification for schools

The information below, originally published by Ofsted in the autumn 2014 and revised in March 2015, serves to confirm facts about the requirements of Ofsted and to dispel myths about inspection (@HarfordSean legacy) that can result in unnecessary workloads in schools. It is intended to highlight specific practices that are not required by Ofsted. It is up to schools themselves to determine their practices and for leadership teams to justify these on their own merits rather than by reference to this inspection handbook.

Lesson planning

Ofsted does not require schools to provide individual lesson plans to inspectors. Equally, Ofsted does not require schools to provide previous lesson plans.

SO MAKE IT UP AS YOU GO! In truth this in practice is great. It is a strong message of freedom. It harks to the lines many good heads and teachers on here advocate… Don’t do it for Ofsted – do it for your school community. Make it work for you!

Ofsted does not specify how planning should be set out, the length of time it should take or the amount of detail it should contain. Inspectors are interested in the effectiveness of planning rather than the form it takes.

So that Friday night back of the fag packet 12:30 AM genius idea is now officially PLANNING! I mean what’s good for Government Education Policy must be good for a wet Monday morning History lesson…


Ofsted does not require self-evaluation to be provided in a specific format. Any assessment that is provided should be part of the school’s business processes and not generated solely for inspection purposes.

Business Processes? Unfortunate wording… I think they mean, show us what you got. Therefore, when doing this make sure you understand how it works so that when you have to explain it to lay people it does not look like you cut and pasted someone else’s SEF… Not that I would ever do that!

Grading of lessons

Ofsted does not award a grade for the quality of teaching or outcomes in the individual lessons visited. It does not grade individual lessons. It does not expect schools to use the Ofsted evaluation schedule to grade teaching or individual lessons.

SO STOP DOING IT! Make lesson observations about development… Make it a dialogue in which your teachers feel safe. Make Lesson Observations work to the language of your community… call it what you want but call it in the name of making your school better through developing teaching rather than hurting teachers. How many ‘rogue’ inspectors will get caught on this? Selling an outstanding grade down the dark corridors for sugar cubes and hot coffee…

Lesson observations

Ofsted does not require schools to undertake a specified amount of lesson observation.

Ofsted does not expect schools to provide specific details of the pay grade of individual teachers who are observed during inspection.

This should read… Ofsted want you to get rid of Performance Related Pay because it has no place in education when the child is the central purpose of what we do rather than our own created success based on the measurable…

Pupils’ work

Ofsted does not expect to see a particular frequency or quantity of work in pupils’ books or folders. Ofsted recognises that the amount of work in books and folders will depend on the subject being studied and the age and ability of the pupils.

Look at School 21’s Beautiful Work approach. If you believe in it enough… go for it! But this still has a hint of tradition about it… I am sure there will be coming controversy over this area in the next year.

Ofsted recognises that marking and feedback to pupils, both written and oral, are important aspects of assessment. However, Ofsted does not expect to see any specific frequency, type or volume of marking and feedback; these are for the school to decide through its assessment policy. Marking and feedback should be consistent with that policy, which may cater for different subjects and different age groups of pupils in different ways, in order to be effective and efficient in promoting learning.

While inspectors will consider how written and oral feedback is used to promote learning, Ofsted does not expect to see any written record of oral feedback provided to pupils by teachers.

If it is necessary for inspectors to identify marking as an area for improvement for a school, they will pay careful attention to the way recommendations are written to ensure that these do not drive unnecessary workload for teachers.

This is to stop all those recommendations made in POOR Ofsted reports where the inspectors can’t really think of a reason so say RI or not quite Outstanding because… The School needs to improve marking and feedback so that it… BLAH BLAH BLAH!

I hope we see a maturing towards our attitudes to marking this year and we use the word feedback more.

Evidence for inspection

Ofsted does not expect schools to provide evidence for inspection beyond that set out in this inspection handbook.

OH! You mean I can’t buy 5000 new folders and make files with titles such as Leadership, ECO stuff, International Links and Assessment for Life Skills to pile up on the table with 15,000 pieces of evidence? Travesty!

Ofsted will take a range of evidence into account when making judgements, including

Published performance data,

I spoke to the DFE about published Performance DATA yesterday. My Advice… Don’t run a Special School and a Mainstream school where ALL the data is put together. It hurts! I now have to do what Ofsted is saying I should not have to do… I am having to prepare my own performance data to ensure the inspectors understand why the published ones look so rubbish.

The school’s in-year performance information and

Work in pupils’ books and folders. (SAY YOU HAVE NONE?)… They mean evidence of learning surely?

However, unnecessary or extensive collections of marked pupils’ work are not required for inspection.

Is anyone brave enough to let all their books go home this year? And then Ofsted walk in on the third week… I would keep a selection behind just in case. Otherwise where is YOUR eviudence?

Ofsted does not expect performance- and pupil-tracking information to be presented in a particular format. Such information should be provided to inspectors in the format that the school would ordinarily use to track and monitor the progress of pupils in that school.

Ah! Ha! Make your tracking SO complex that even Stephen Hawkins couldn’t understand it and then just say, “Well, as you can see our Quintile parameters’ are at the conjectures of Singapore and Finland minus the loss of generality… in other words – This is OUTSTANDING Data… Don’t you agree?”

Ofsted does not require teachers to undertake additional work or to ask pupils to undertake work specifically for the inspection.

That’s to stop inspectors getting us to clean their cars I think…

Ofsted will usually expect to see evidence of the monitoring of teaching and learning and its link to teachers’ performance management and the teachers’ standards, but this should be the information that the school uses routinely and not additional evidence generated for inspection.

Ofsted does not require schools to provide evidence for each teacher for each of the bulleted sub-headings in the teachers’ standards.

I pity the fool that worked in a school that did? I think that what is great about this part of the handbook is it lays out what schools were doing before. The ‘Ofsted does not’ bits are a kind of potted history of education over the last five years.

I know… I went and ruined it. I started off all serious (I really do LOVE this handbook because it sets out what we should expect and it is about being YOUR own school… Nothing in it really hits me as unfair or unexpected.) but I just could not resist it… Sorry Ofsted!