Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Day Before Inspection - A Reflection on the Week Ahead

So tomorrow's the big day, our OfStEd inspection begins. I thought I'd jot a few thoughts down prior to the event and then see how things develop during the week.

First thing to say is that I'm looking forward to the week. This will be my second OfStEd and it will be very different to the first one. At that point in time OfStEd was still reimageing itself after the days of Chris Woodhead when there was a real feeling in schools that inspections were a vehicle for criticism and little else. I was also a Deputy Headteacher in a large primary for that inspection and the pressures were very intense as I had wide-ranging responsibilities.

The pressure for this inspection is much less - OfStEd is much more focussed these days and whilst it can still be forthright in it's opinions (see Zenna Atkins!) in general they stem from a desire for improvement rather than any kind of hidden agenda.

Whilst the preparation has been demanding, from my own point of view I feel safe in the knowledge that what I do is interesting, challenging and relevant. The top OfStEd category is of course, outstanding. For any school achieving a grade of outstanding it's a testimony to the hard work of staff as a whole. I could never describe my work as 'outstanding' - not because I'm not confident in what I do, it's just not in my nature! It's a personality thing.

In any case, the pervasive nature of ICT within the curriculum means that the work students carry out within their ICT lessons as a whole is now only a small part of their ICT experience in school. In short, KS2 students spend 45 mins a week in the lab but should be spending much more time using ICT in authentic ways within the curriculum. So any comments on ICT within Kellett will hopefully reflect that.

An aspect of inspection which I think is very useful is it gives staff an opportunity to reflect upon their practice and pedagogy and look at what real learning is going on in their classrooms. The greater attention to detail in planning can help to focus ideas and move things forward. I know it has for me!

The evaluation schedule of OfStEd (see illustration for word cloud) talks a lot about schools using new technology but it's not clear what it means by this. PCs aren't new, nor is Microsoft Word or PowerPoint, or e-mail for that matter. What new technology might they see next week? Well, from a personal viewpoint if they come and see me they're going to see Y3&4 students using Google Sketchup to investigate tessellation & symmetry, and Y5&6 creating computer games for students to use within the curriculum. Both of these could be described as "new" technology don't you think? The Sketchup module is a progression for us, moving this excellent software down through the school, from the creative, design activities we use in Y6&7 to activities rooted within the Mathematics curriculum.

The Y5&6 module will be using 2DIY, by definition it's new because we've only had it for six weeks! This is definitely an example of how in a 21st Century classroom the teachers should be learning alongside the students - already the students have had more time on the software than me so we'll definitely be exploring together.

So that's me sorted, don't know how it will go down with the inspectors but I know the students will be engaged and challenged - I don't think you can ask for more.

What might they see elsewhere? It's difficult to find the time to work out what everybody's doing - it's easy to get wrapped up in making sure you will be ok - but I am expecting them to see;

Web 2.0 technology being used. Year 6 will be leading the way on this - having already used Primary Pad and Glogster (as well as Guitar Hero!) they will be collaborating online using Mind42 and Shelfari - hopefully the inspectors will clearly see here how new technology can impact upon learning - now that is outstanding in my mind!

Games as a stimulus for writing. Having used Rollercoaster Tycoon, Year 5 will be tackling a range of writing activities stemming from their time creating their own theme parks.

Laptops New technology? Not sure, but they will hopefully see that as a school we are committed to mobile learning.

Multimedia. They should see students constantly expressing themselves through audio, video and images - our relatively small resource of digital cameras, Flip video, Vado video and TTS Digital microphones will be as popular as ever during inspection week.

Nintendo DS - Year 2 will be using DS consoles and the game Nintendogs as a stimulus for their classroom activities. Inspired by the work of teachers such as Anna Rosvoll in Scotland this module is one of the things I'm hoping to get to see in the next couple of weeks - I'm fascinated to see how it goes.

iTouch - we love them! They work - immediately! Our small team of iTouches have proven to be very popular and have already impacted upon learning. I have no hesitation in describing Katrina Hall's work in Y1 using the iTouch as outstanding. These appear to be booked out for most of the week - I just hope we can find time to recharge them!!

So that's just a flavour of what's going on and what the inspectors might see. There's lots more too, Chinese Studies will be using laptops extensively, as will other year groups, and PE will be using digital video to analyse their work.

Do I have any misgivings or concerns about the week ahead? Well, if the school network falls over that could be problematic, but not much we can do about that. There will always be technical niggles, iTouch apart, ed-tech hasn't got to the light bulb stage yet (switch it on and it works) - but dealing with that in the classroom is part and parcel of the job - whilst it's true our support structures are stretched I've never been in a school that admits to having too much technical support!

What else... if I was honest I'd have to say that the National Curriculum is not exactly an inspiration for embedding authentic technology within the curriculum. Our move towards ISTE is a reflection of our desire to be more creative in our work and also to focus upon the professional development of our staff. I hope they see that reflected in what we do.

So, what would I like them to say about our use of technology?

I'd certainly like them to say that we are innovative in our approach, I'd like them to note that technology is being used for creative purposes as well as problem solving and that although research type activities and basic software skills are still part of what we do they are no longer the core.

That we are beginning to come to terms with what it means to enable our students to become responsible and active digital citizens in the 21st Century - we still have a long way to go on this but so does everybody!

I'd like them to highlight that some staff are prepared to work outside their comfort zone (no matter what that zone is) and commend them for it.

They should take note of staff who are developing themselves professionally through sharing and collaborating with teachers outside of their own school - this is a key characteristic of outstanding teachers in the 21st Century and a part of the ISTE standards for teaching staff.

I would also like them to highlight the outstanding (there, I said it!) progress we have made in the past couple of years, we've really moved technology along during that time. But at the same time it's important for them to be clear that we still have a huge amount of work to do, or in the words of Scott McLeod...

"I'm not sure you appreciate how far you still have to go."

Good luck to all my colleagues this week.


  1. This is a fabulous post. I enjoyed hearing about all of the things your school is doing. It sounds like you're doing some really cool stuff with your kids. If would encourage you to add your school to the list of Model International Schools over at the Moving Forward wiki ( Good luck with your Ofsted visit!

  2. great use of this application