Preparing for your Ofsted Inspection | The Initial Phone Call

Preparing for your Ofsted Inspection | The Initial Phone Call

As with many things in life, the Ofsted phone call can occur when you least expect it. Even in schools that feel the call should be imminent, the actual call is often when the headteacher least expects it: out of school on a training course or accompanying a school trip.

(When I was a headteacher, another head in our cluster made a ‘hoax’ Ofsted call to a head in another cluster school, thinking it would be funny… Strangely enough, it didn’t go down that well. Who would have thought?)

Ofsted Inspection the Initial Phone Call

The initial call is from the Ofsted office to establish that the school will be inspected and to agree on a time later that day for the lead inspector to speak with the headteacher or whoever is in charge should the head be absent.

That call between the lead inspector and the headteacher is a lengthy affair, and there are no surprises here; it focuses primarily on the curriculum and intent. It also includes the practicalities such as parking, whether there is a room for the team or inspector to work from, any issues in the school that need to be taken into account or events that are taking place during the inspection days, and something about the really important things like school dinners, biscuits, and coffee - which should be paid for by the way. Ofsted inspect without fear or favour, and free biscuits can’t be seen to have swung the outcome from RI to Outstanding even if they were double chocolate chip.

Your school website review

The lead inspector will have already looked at the school website before the school gets the call. As a result, they will be aware of the school’s mission statement, aims and values and will also have seen the curriculum overviews for all the subjects for each year group.

Just as an aside, some schools only have curriculum information for the current term on their website or occasionally, information is missing for a certain subject. For example, music or PE just says ‘PPA’. This might suggest a lack of oversight from the school, buying in an external provider.

The headteacher may wish to explain to the lead inspector that they are putting them on speaker and that the deputy is also involved in the call, maybe taking notes and chipping in with information. If nothing else, having the call on speaker will save the headteacher from a stiff neck and very warm ear, which will happen if left holding a phone wedged between head and shoulder for an hour and a half.

Key curriculum areas discussed during inspection

The key areas around the curriculum that the lead inspector will want to discuss are:

  • exploring what is on offer, to whom and when across the age range of the school. The class timetables will be requested as soon as possible to help plan the days and are one of the factors in choosing subjects for deep dives. Subjects that are actually being taught are more likely to be agreed upon.
  • leaders’ understanding of curriculum intent and sequencing. This will probably include a focus on early reading, given that every school gets a deep dive into this. So leaders need to be prepared to explain the decisions that have been made about phonics and its effectiveness in the school.
  • Why curriculum choices were made. This doesn’t need to be a deeply philosophical treatise, but leaders should know why a school uses a certain phonics scheme, published PE scheme, chosen to adopt and adapt a maths scheme, etc. These questions can be followed up with the respective subject leaders, so it’s worth making sure everyone knows and tells the same story on this.

The end and summary of the inspection call

By the end of the call, the school will, of course, know which subjects are going to be the deep dives. I would strongly recommend telling those subject leaders of the deep dive subjects to go and check with teachers what they are teaching if they are timetabled during the inspection. This ensures the subject leaders know where classes are in the learning sequence and that lessons are matched to planning, something the inspectors are likely to explore.

Waiting for the call may be stressful, but once a school gets it, at least it means the inspection will be out of the way very soon. And it won’t be a stressful ‘joke’ call from a neighbouring head pretending to be Ofsted. He’s not in education anymore…


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