This is an abridged version of an article I wrote for The Times Educational Supplement which was first published in September 2017. You can read all of the abridged version here and, if you have a subscription, the full version here.
An Ofsted base room is the beating heart of any college inspection. It is the nerve centre (as well as a centre of nerves); it is the war room from which battles are planned and troops are sent forth; and it is the barracks to which loyal soldiers return, war-weary, to be debriefed and readied for their next attack. Get the base room right and half the battle is fought and won.
Pick your battles
When you read the pre-inspection briefing you might be overcome by the number of points to consider, but don’t take it personally. Be quick to correct mistakes and provide supporting evidence, then pick your battles. Be frank: you haven’t got some things right yet and some aspects of your performance aren’t good enough. Once you’ve accepted some points, pick the discussion points that are worth fighting for and about which you know you have strong, robust evidence.
Preparing colleagues for meetings
The base room should be a place in which to prepare staff for their meetings with inspectors. Run through a series of probable questions that you’ve issued in advance and given colleagues time to think about. Above all, instil confidence and remind colleagues that they have nothing to fear because they’re doing a great job and are fully prepared.
It’s important that colleagues feed back as early as possible because the conversation needs to be fresh in their minds. Positivity is again key to the success of this meeting: staff need to walk out of the room smiling.
Preparing position statements and other documentation
Although Ofsted should accept whatever documentation – and in whatever form – the college ordinarily uses, it will be necessary to produce some position papers and data for the sole purposes of inspection. It is the responsibility of whoever runs the base room to ensure that every document that’s handed to inspectors is proofed for accuracy and consistency. Nothing should leave the room without checks for spelling, punctuation and grammar, and without all data being validated.
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