11 attributes of the ideal ICT and Computing inspector

Should an inspector come to look at your ICT or Computing provision, what sort of "qualifications" would you like them to have? 

I've placed the word qualifications in quotation marks, because I don't think that formal qualifications are necessarily the most important. If you disagree, then feel free to add something like "Has a degree in Computer Science" to my list. However, given that in England at least there isn't a surfeit of teachers with a qualification in Computer Science, I don't think inspectors with such a degree is a realistic proposition. At least, not yet.

So, here is my list.

They have taught the subject...

To some extent, an expert in teaching in one subject can evaluate a lesson in any subject, because there are common criteria to look at. For example, are the pupils on task, is there a good atmosphere, conducive to learning, do the pupils give you good answers when you ask questions like, "Why are you doing this?".

Nevertheless, an expert in the subject itself will be able to tell whether or not the pupils are asking incisive questions and, crucially, whether the teacher's answers are correct.

Plus, having taught the subject is necessary for establishing credibility.

... At that level

Again, if the inspector has taught the subject at one level, s/he will not be a complete ignoramus at a lower or higher level -- but their abilities to evalutae your lesson will be somewhat curtailed.

Expert enough to judge...

This is the nub of the matter. I don't mind being judged, as long as I'm confident that the person doing the judging has enough expertise and experience to do so. One of the reasons I railed against the Department for Education's rules on using exclamation marks (see STEM and Governmental Micromanagement) is that I have no idea why the people who drew up these rules regard themselves as qualified to do so. 

... And to advise

Ofsted inspectors are not supposed to advise, at least that was the case when I was doing Ofsted inspections. I always believed it to be the height of nastiness to inform a teacher that their lesson wasn't very good, but refuse to tell them how they might improve it. I always offered them the option to have a chat with loads of advice and suggestions thrown in. One inspector I knew even offered the whole history department an hour's session after school. That should be the norm, not the exception.


I have to say this: some inspectors I've met could do with a lesson in humility. I always regarded it as a privilege to be able to sit in people's lessons and talk to their pupils. Besides, there have been cases where a school has complained about an individual inspector, or where the teachers as a group have refused to co-operate, so it's not a given that just because you're an inspector you're going to be greeted with great reverence.

Whenever I've been inspected I've tried to get on with the inspector and been as co-operative as possible -- but that hasn't prevented me telling an inspector they're mistaken, especially if they come across as thinking they're better than I am. 

Not taken in by formatting

It annoys me when inspectors think a pupil's ICT work is good because it looks good. It should be a basic requirement of the job that one knows about templates, wizards and getting your older sister to type stuff up for you.

Can ask the right questions of pupils

Funnily enough, someone has done the work for me here. I drafted this article a couple of weeks ago, but yesterday an article on the Learn ICT blog highlighted the release of guidance for inspectors of iCT in Wales. The appendices have a good set of questions for pupils of different ages, and also for teachers and managers.

A good question to ask is "Why are you doing this?" If the answer is "Because Sir told me to", perhaps more time should have been spent explaining the point of the exercise!

Can ask challenging questions of teachers

See the point above. Actually, the question "Why are you doing/teaching this?" is a good question to ask teachers too. When I was an inspector, I used to ask how well their pupils were doing, how were girls and boys doing relative to each other, how were pupils with special educational needs doing compared to everyone else -- and how did the teacher/person in charge of the subject know?

Knows the criteria...

Knowing the criteria for the various judgements is essential. However...

...But is pragmatic...

The inspection guidance used to be much more black and white than it is now. For example, when I was doing it, the handbook stated that if there was good use of technology throughout the school, but that the Head of ICT wasn't co-ordinating it, then ICT could not be judged higher than Satisfactory. 

In one school I inspected, there was a phenomenal amount of ICT going on around the school, but the Head of ICT didn't really know about it. He was very good at running the ICT Department, so it wasn't that he was lazy or uninterested, but there are only so many hours in a day.

I put it to the head of the inspection team that if I downgraded ICT just because he didn't know what other teachers were doing, the only effect it would have would be to demoralise him. It certainly wouldn't have improved the ICT around the school, because that was brilliant anyway, without anyone co-ordinating it. She agreed.

Ofsted these days seems much more pragmatic than it has been in the past, not only as far as Computing is concerned but also in matters pertaining to the whole school.

And Knows the myths

Finally, the inspector should know their own rules. If an Ofsted inspector asks you, for example, for your lesson plan, I think you have pretty good grounds for complaining to your headteacher, because the imagined requirement to provide a lesson plan is one of the Ofsted myths.

In fact, it would be really nice if some senior leadership teams knew those myths too!

You think it unlikely that an Ofsted inspector would not know Ofsted's requirements? During one of my jobs in a local authority, an Ofsted inspector came along to give a talk to all senior leaders and advisers. During the talk he stated that all lessons must involve using education technology, but if that was not feasible then the teacher had to mention that they could have used education technology.

I hadn't heard such baloney in a long time, so I asked the head of ICT in Ofsted at the time if this were true. He shook his head and said he would send another memo out to everyone about what the ICT requirements and expectations were.

It was annoying that all the senior leaders had been told something that wasn't true, but as they didn't interfere with us it wasn't a problem. I simply told my team to ignore what the visiting speaker had said.

Final note

You may not think this list is useful, from the point of view that if the person inspecting ICT or Computing doesn't know much about the subject there's not much you can do about it. However, there are things you can do, and I'll cover them in another article. Also, if you read in the inspectors' biographies that "your" one is very qualified indeed, that should not only give you confidence that you will be judged fairly and competently, but also that you may, with luck, be given some excellent teaching tips that you hadn't thought of!