Bluffer’s Guide to Surviving an Ofsted Inspection

This article originally appeared in Teach Primary, a wonderful and intelligent publication to which you can subscribe here.

Finally, you fully understand what it would feel for the characters in one of those asteroid apocalypse movies. Bruce Willis can’t help you now though, the death-line has already been crossed. It starts with headteacher charging into your classroom just before midday, wild eyed and sweating, manically gesturing a phone-hand-signal before blurting out, “We’ve had the call, everything is okay. EVERYTHING IS OKAY!”

Everything is quite clearly not okay. Everything is very far from okay. But fear not. You have 18 hours until impact, and armed with this trusty guide, you can bluff your way through your Ofsted inspection…

Pile additional pressure on teachers whilst insisting there’s nothing to worry about.

Briefly consider delivering an amended version of the “We will not go silently into the night!” speech from Independence Day, complete with dramatic music. Immediately disregard that plan and tell nobody you even considered it. Instead call a huge, panicked staff meeting like one of the town hall scenes from the Simpsons. Explain that we’ve all been expecting this and all we need to do is show them what we do on a day to day basis. Then don’t let anyone leave until every facet of the school is unrecognisable from its usual self.

Pile additional pressure on children whilst insisting that there’s nothing to worry about.

Primary aged children have an annoying tendency of being completely honest when asked questions by adults, and this is perhaps your biggest threat over the next few days. Embrace your inner Malcom Tucker and ensure that they are all briefed within an inch of their lives. Drill them with the literacy targets that you half-heartedly introduced two months ago, and ‘remind’ them of how they know how to explain their learning objective and success criteria. Prepare them for the fact that you will be wearing a thing called a ‘tie’ tomorrow, and that this is completely normal. Sternly explain that our ‘special visitors’ will be watching their behaviour very closely so it’s very important that they, you know, behave. For once.

Play your best team 

Whilst little Patrick’s refusal to do anything except shout “You smelly head” at the top of his voice has become endearing to the staff of your school, inspectors may not be so understanding. It’s lucky that Patrick has been looking a little peaky recently. In fact, come to think of it, a lot of the children with more ‘lively’ approaches to learning suddenly look a bit under the weather.  Seek out these characters and hold a compassionate hand to their brow, before asking them how they’re feeling. When they reply, puzzled, that they’re absolutely fine, send them to the medical room immediately. Suggest to their parents they stay off for the next 48 hours. Better to be safe than sorry, right?

Buy Red Bull.

Coffee is not going to cut it. Red Bull comes in crates.

The books. My god the books.

Triage, my friend. You cannot mark all of those books in the time available to you. It’s just not possible. You need three piles. First, your ‘show’ books; the trusty high attainers with neat handwriting – strategically place these in areas most likely to be perused by unwelcome hands. Now take books of the middle attainers and randomly highlight in an array of colours. Then have the children ‘edit’ their work in a variety of coloured pencils whilst shouting repeatedly, “You’re responding to feedback, just like always. What are you doing!? Responding to feedback, that’s right. Just like always.” Finally, there are the ‘hopeless cases’, the books that a thousand half terms couldn’t save. These will need to be lost in a series of unfortunate incidents including, but not limited to: accidentally being thrown out with their books from last year; being ruined by spilt tea; insisting the child took it home; and “I’m sure I’ve got it here somewhere” before hiding in the toilet until they go away.

Deprive yourself of everything that makes you an effective teacher.

Since you’ll be in school until midnight, take away pizza is the only viable option, but be sure to supplement this with biscuits, sweets and stockpiled generic junk food. If you absolutely must, you may sleep a total of two hours, but assert loudly the next morning that you didn’t sleep at all. Any sort of recreational activity that brings you joy and well-being is strictly banned. Surely that goes without saying.


Of course, you could disregard all of this advice and just do what you normally do, like some sort of maverick from an 80s cop show. In which case, you’ve only got yourself to blame.


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