For an RE teacher in a Catholic school, OFSTED is naturally stressful (see my blogs on the visit <here> and the feedback <here>), but in reality when everyone else breaths a sigh of relief, the RE department go into overdrive.
If you have never heard of a Section 48 Inspection, there is information from the DfE, complied by @ClerkToGovernor <here>:
"If a school has a religious character, as determined by the Secretary of State for Education and Skills under the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, denominational religious education and the content of collective worship are inspected under section 48 of the Education Act 2005. The inspectors who conduct section 48 inspections are appointed by the school’s governing body in consultation with the appropriate religious authority, and are normally drawn from the relevant faith group’s section 48 inspectorate (for instance, the Catholic Education Service in the case of Roman Catholic schools...)"
Our inspection was carried out by BRES, but due the national shortage of trained Section 48 inspectors, our lead came from outside the Diocese.
The time-frame varies hugely and other schools in our local area had their visit 4 to 5 weeks after OFSTED with approximately 3 weeks notice. Our OFSTED was in early November and so by this rational, we would be inspected the week before Christmas. We were in two minds, we wanted to get it over and done with, but equally didn't want to review our usual Christmas schedule of lessons. The call never came.
Nor did it in January and I was getting personally quite conscious, given I was due to get married on the 15th February. Finally the call came on Tuesday 11th February, ready for 'the visit' on Thursday 13th March.
Now, with OFSTED you get the call at lunchtime and you are physically limited by what you can 'pull out of the bag'. With Section 48, you know exactly who you will have with a great deal of notice. This is not as great as you think:
- You can't plan the lesson until nearer the time. This sits at the back of your mind... shall I do this? Shall I do that? Will they be ready for this?
- When you do decide, you plan, replan, over plan, panic about the plan... (and Section 48 in our Diocese still want to see the actual plan!)
- Your marking becomes solely focused on the classes they will be seeing that day. Other classes get pushed to the back. This isn't right and I am now in the process of giving them my undivided attention!
- And this is just the lessons.... I am second in department and no chance to shirk responsibility!
The SEF was sent off the day after the phone call. Every electronic document that existed for the Department was requested including SRE policy, PHSE curriculum, pastoral care policy etc. It also included every scheme of work: Key Stage 3 to 5. These were all emailed to the lead inspector, as requested, on Monday 3rd March (my 30th birthday lunch was postponed due to amount of documents that had to be collated and emailed off!). This gave the lead a week to digest them before his pre-inspection visit on Monday 10th March.
At this meeting the lead inspector thanked us for all the documentation before meeting with the Headteacher and then later the Head of Department. We hoped to finalise an inspection timetable, i.e. who would be seen and when. However it later transpired the timetable we made was only for his visits and not those for the other inspector...
Most staff still see Section 48 as just for the RE department. Yes, largely it is, but it is still a whole school inspection. Our Citizenship and PHSE curriculum was definitely on the agenda; all staff contribute to that. Plus inspectors always scrutinise form rooms in which RE is taught... not necessarily the form rooms of RE staff. Also they attend any assemblies or collective worship. Finally they look for evidence all around the place for your ethos and all the extra curricular things going on.
Needless to say, the rest of the week was spent chasing around various staff making sure all the fine touches were in place. Again you are limited when OFSTED call, with Section 48, there can be no excuses!
Part 2: The Day coming soon...