Secondary English

Eight Lessons Learned from HMI Inspectors

A young man looking through a magnifying glassSo, inspections or ‘reviews’ seems to be becoming more and more common. Whether it is internal inspections by your school’s Senior Leadership Team, your Academy Sponsor’s annual/termly/weekly review or the dreaded visit from Ofsted, we are all under more scrutiny than ever. Here are eight lessons that I have learned from speaking to HMI inspectors and reading their review documents over the last year.

  1. Demonstrate a love and enthusiasm for your subject. This may sound obvious, but it is all too easy to forget about this as the nerves set in. Yes, we all have exam prep to teach, but just by simply sharing with your students what you personally enjoy about what you are doing, then you can start to set alight that fire of inspiration. In my last observation, I even shared the secret that dun dun duhh: ‘I love exams.’
  2. Make sure you make it explicit to students WHY you are doing a particular activity and HOW it will help them to learn. This will help with the engagement levels in class, because if students understand the purpose of what they are doing, then they will see the point in the task.
  3. Keep referring back to the learning objectives. We all know that progress and proving progress are the key to success. This links to point 2 above, as by explaining to students how what they are doing helps them to achieve the learning objective, then you are helping them (and any observer) to understand the learning journey they are on.
  4. Make sure ALL books are marked and up to date. Inspectors will look at books. They will probably check a sample across the school and they will definitely look at the books in any lessons they observe. It is important that they are quickly and easily able to see that you are:
    • Marking regularly
    • Following your school marking policy
    • Marking for literacy
    • Getting students to respond to your feedback by improving their work.
  1. When questioning, seek the opinions of other students or draw students into a discussion, e.g. ‘What do you think of X’s answer? Do you agree? Why?’. Think of a basketball game, when taking feedback from students, and not a ping-pong match. Ensure that there is no opt out for students when asked to contribute.
  2. Avoid any copying in lessons, other than the title or date. Talk about the learning objective and outcome, but do not necessarily get them to write it down. The rule of thumb is, if it doesn’t help you to prove progress then don’t do it. Students need to be active in lessons and not filling time. To that end, make sure you have a quick starter activity on the board when students enter the lesson, so that they get started on their learning straightaway.
  3. Have high expectations of your students at all times. This counts for behaviour, quantity and quality of work. Do not be afraid to follow your school behaviour policy. It is much better to show how the school deals with low-level disruption or poor attitudes from students, than to ignore it. Whatever your school says you should be doing, you have to be seen adhering to it. Consistency of practice across the school is paramount.
  4. Focus on the pace of learning, not the pace of activities. Do not miss opportunities to revisit or reinforce previous learning.

I am sure that you all do most of these things most of the time, but it doesn’t hurt to remind ourselves of the essentials before the big day arrives. Luckily most of the points above do not involve any extra work or preparation (other than the marking), but just require us to focus on the way we present the tasks within our lessons.

Finally, embrace the adrenaline rush and enjoy (no, seriously!). Inspections do not need to be feared, but are a great opportunity to show off the hard work you have been putting in all year.

Collins Secondary

Collins Secondary is the home of innovative learning resources for all stages of secondary education. We support thousands of teachers and pupils who are using our award-winning materials every day, and provide what you need to enhance the learning experience with our easy to use and flexible programmes.

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