Ofsted... there we said it! The words that can make a school stop dead in their tracks. John tells us what to expect of Ofsted when you are a supply teacher.
To anyone involved in education one word is sure to provoke a reaction. News of a visit from Ofsted can affect us all, although maybe in different ways. How that phone call / brown envelope / email / urgent note from the head affects us, as supply teachers, seems to vary tremendously.
The official line always seems to be that if you are teaching a class, you are likely to be observed by one of the inspection team, however some schools seem to go to great lengths to let the inspection team know which lessons are being covered by supply teachers. What they wish to achieve from this I don’t know. Maybe they think that the inspectors will avoid your lessons or maybe be less critical. Inspectors have always told me that they should treat supply teachers just the same as any teacher so we should be just as well prepared.
Over the course of my career I have been inspected as an ordinary classroom teacher (as if any teacher is ever ordinary), as a head of faculty and as a supply teacher. I have been through routine inspections as well as regular monitoring visits when I’ve gone to a school that had (previously) been placed in special measures. I have also had my share of visits from a team when the school is undergoing ‘due diligence’ inspections as part of an academy conversion. I have always tried to approach my lessons when an inspection team is in the school in the same way as I approach all of my lessons. I’ve always believed that our pupils deserve the best all the time, not just when we’re ‘on show’.
During the past two years, whilst I have been working as a supply teacher, I have had a couple of encounters with Ofsted. Both occasions were very similar during the inspection period (which we would expect), but very different outcomes as far as being ‘on supply’ goes.
On the first occasion I was at a school for a couple of days. The work outline that had been left was not as detailed as an inspector may have wanted but I able to expand upon this and had all the relevant things on the board (date, title, learning outcomes, key words, examples etc) and was busy working with pupils when the door opened and an inspector walked in.
“I understand you’re here on supply”, “yes I am, would you like to come in and see what we’re doing?”, “no thanks, it’s OK, everything seems fine” replied the inspector.
At the end of the day the head of faculty came in and thanked me for what I had done. The school was rated as good.
On the second occasion the inspection days went much the same. I was on a longer term placement so was setting my own work and was in my second week there. I again had a look around the door from and inspector. The school was judged to be good, but the aftermath was very different. The school had been asked about monitoring procedures for supply staff, as they had quite a few on ‘long term’ placements (including one who was in her third year there on a supply basis). The school didn’t have any specific procedures in place, so the head decided that in future all supply staff on long term placements should have a lesson observed and rated, to Ofsted criteria, every four weeks.
Of these two schools, now both rated as good, one had previously been rated as ‘outstanding’ and one had previously been rated as ‘satisfactory’. I know which I think of as the better of the two, and ofsted would seem to agree as that is the one that is improving.
John is a secondary maths teacher who works with our Sheffield and Humber branches.