This is a CPD training session I hope you do not have to use soon. When Ofsted calls, however, you won’t have time to plan a training session, so this plan can be picked off the shelf ready to use. It may seem that nearby schools are being regularly picked off by Ofsted, and every Friday morning you are awaiting the phone call. Maybe you have no idea when you will be inspected. Whatever your circumstances, with only two days’ notice of an inspection it is a good idea to consider what training or type of meeting you wish to hold with your staff.


The first key decision is how long the training should last and when it will be delivered. Under the current arrangements, Ofsted will telephone the headteacher in the morning; you will then have one more school day before the inspectors arrive. It is likely that on the day Ofsted telephones, your head will wish to spend the day in ‘lockdown’ putting the finishing touches to the school self-evaluation form, which Ofsted will expect to be completed by 4pm. On the day before inspection, your headteacher is likely to take two long calls with the lead inspector. The aim will be for the pre-inspection briefing paper to be completed by the end of the second day. As a result your head may be expecting other members of the senior leadership team to step up to look after the staff.

Most schools will wish to prepare their staff and this is one of those rare occasions when, even though such a meeting is not directed time, most staff will attend. In a two-day window there is a limit to the amount of preparation you can give staff and it is probably best to concentrate on the quality of teaching and learning and the leadership of teaching and learning.

There are two elements to this session, so it could be delivered over two afternoons – the day of the initial telephone call and the day before Ofsted arrives. You could also deliver the training in one session, preferably on the day of the telephone call.

The first part of the session focuses on all staff and covers three elements:

  • planning and lesson plan proforma
  • demonstrating pupil progress during a part lesson
  • the use of questioning as a method of teacher assessment.

The second part concentrates on middle leaders’ preparation for an inspector’s interview, focusing on three questions:

  • What progress are the pupils making?
  • How do you know this?
  • What intervention strategies have you used?

It is important that the first piece of training is delivered on the day you receive the Ofsted telephone call so teaching staff have enough time to use the information in their planning of lessons. The training for middle leaders could, though, be delivered the day before Ofsted arrives.

Session 1: working with all teaching staff

Introduction – 5 minutes

Distribute one completed and several blank copies of your school lesson planning proforma to every teacher. Provide enough for one for every lesson over two days and/or explain where the proforma can be found electronically. Give staff a chance to browse the completed version. Share your aims with staff (see table).

Development – 30 minutes

  • Task 1: On the interactive whiteboard have a copy of the completed lesson plan. Invite staff to consider how the lesson plan reveals opportunities for outstanding learning to take place. Ask them to pinpoint places in the lesson, for example, where pupil progress can be shown, where pupils are actively demonstrating their learning, and where assessment for learning techniques will be clearly used. Ask them to consider whether the lesson structure will allow them to ensure that their lesson has pace and challenge appropriate to the ability of the students. Ask them to highlight the differentiation opportunities. Finally, ask them to consider where there is specific planning for vulnerable/gifted and talented/supported SEN students.
  • During the discussion time ask members of staff to come out to the board and annotate the plan with such features. Create a key if you like: red for differentiation, blue for assessment for learning opportunities, green for pupil progress demonstration.
  • Task 2: Discuss the plan’s strengths and weaknesses. What would the inspectors be hoping to see that the plan doesn’t suggest might be a feature of the lesson? Advise against overplanning – scripted lessons are never the most engaging – but, equally, encourage confident staff to be bold if they are looking for an outstanding judgment.
  • Task 3: Now ask staff to discuss with three colleagues effective assessment for learning techniques they may use. This is probably best done in department teams. Take suggestions as a whole staff and encourage quick opportunities for pupils to signal understanding to the teacher, and for thinking and reflection time. Also, encourage staff to let pupils lead plenaries or be leaders in group tasks, reporting back their group’s learning points to the class.

Plenary – 5 minutes

Finally, return to the topic of pupil progress. Ask the question of all staff: if an inspector came into your lesson, how could he or she see pupils making progress? Leave them with this as a mantra. A final cartoon up on the whiteboard should end the session with a smile as teachers leave with concrete planning ideas. Try or

What next?

Teachers need to plan their lessons. On the mornings of Ofsted, if the inspectors are not present in briefing, remind teachers that if they wish to gain an outstanding lesson grading they cannot play safe.

Session 2: Working with middle leaders

Introduction – 5 minutes

Arrange seating in small groups, ensuring each contains a mixture of pastoral and curriculum leaders and a senior leader. Explain that a selection of middle leaders will be interviewed by inspectors. One of the things they want to identify is the progress children are making. Ask the teachers to spend five minutes brainstorming ways to measure the progress children make.

Development – 30 minutes

The major part of the session is to enable middle leaders to practise answering questions. Each group considers the following questions and discusses possible answers. To give the task more pace, why not consider running the task in each group as though it is speed-dating? Have all the questions on cards. One person asks their date a question and the person has one minute to answer. At the end of the minute, another member of the group comments on the answer. The person who answered the question then chooses a new question and a new date.

  1. Is attainment and progress in your subject in line with expectation and with other subjects in your school/nationally?
  2. In comparison with other subject areas in the school/nationally, are there individual pupils or groups of pupils who are achieving less well in your subject? What has been put into place to support these
  3. What is your broad view of the strengths and weaknesses of your subject area?
  4. What developments have you put in place to address weaknesses and build on your strengths?
  5. How do you work with your team to promote learners’ personal development and wellbeing?
  6. Is there a system for tracking learners’ progress against their targets and for responding to learners who fall behind?
  7. What intervention strategies are being used to support pupils who are achieving below expectations? What has been the impact of these interventions?
  8. Do whole classes, groups of learners and individual learners have curricular targets and know what they have to improve?
  9. Do learners receive feedback targeted at improving their work? Does marking include teachers’ comments showing clearly what a learner has to do to improve? Is a response from learners expected?
  10. How effective is your self-evaluation in identifying strengths and weaknesses of the department, and is there a clear link to development planning, performance management and CPD?

Plenary – 5 minutes

In groups the middle leaders brainstorm the various intervention strategies they have used over the past two years to increase pupil progress.

What next?

  • Middle leaders could further practise the questions.
  • Look for data that highlights the progress pupils have made.

Paul Ainsworth is the author of Developing a Self-evaluating School: A Practical Guide (Continuum) and vice-principal of a Leicestershire secondary school.