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It’s hard to forget what we were doing when we received notification of our school’s inspection, isn’t it? That’s probably because, no matter how con dent we are in what we are doing for our students every day, our natural instinct is to panic when we hear that the inspectors are coming.

In my last article, I offered ten tips to help teachers show what their students were capable of. In this follow-up article, I would like to offer ten don’ts. The following are the kinds of obstacles that get in the way when schools are trying to show themselves as they would wish to be mirrored in their inspection reports. They certainly don’t apply to all schools, but are perhaps worth bearing in mind nevertheless.


Don’t prepare lots of new documentation for the inspection. Your school isn’t about documentation and neither are inspectors. What really matters is how well the school can share the quality of its learning, teaching and students’ achievement, and show how improvement is being choreographed, using relevant evidence and interventions.


Don’t provide documentation without being able to explain what it means or shows. Assessment data and exam results are for you to show how well students are doing, where you want to target improvements, and the impact the school is having on students’ progress.


Don’t forget that, it’s your quality assurance structures, self- evaluation and improvement planning that show how well you know your school. This is key evidence for inspectors in order to assess your school’s capacity to improve itself, and of course that’s a major outcome of inspection.


Don’t underestimate your school’s performance or indeed overestimate it. Use benchmarks and published standards to gauge and describe your performance accurately, so that inspectors can see that you know your school inside out.


Don’t set up ‘prove us wrong’ challenges. It is far better to explain how you know how good your school is. This helps inspectors to be able to readily ‘prove you right’.


Don’t forget to help inspectors shape their learning/focus trails. This helps in providing them with first-hand experience of those improvements, which have had the most positive impact on student outcomes.


Don’t put on façades. Students know when things are changed just for inspection week. Many of them enjoy telling inspectors all about the new things that are put on for show. That’s not helpful to anyone.


Don’t forget that you are always 8 ‘acclimatised’ for inspection because you do the best for your students every day. Stick with what you know you are good at.


Don’t be reticent when finding out how things are going. Make sure your daily interactions with inspectors explore their views of emerging strengths, as well as any possible concerns. If you have to ask, then ask. Remember, inspection is ‘with’ you, not done ‘to’ you.


Don’t forget to give feedback 10 to inspectors. They also experience many of the emotions that you do and need the confidence to have an open professional dialogue with you.

By Graham Norris

Graham is presently a principal inspector in the Middle East. As HM Assistant Chief Inspector and Assistant Director, he created and led school inspection systems and improvements for Scottish education. Graham is a leading international specialist in transformational change for education services and school performance.