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When the regulators come

Let’s be honest, there are certain experiences in life that we really don’t look forward to: bills landing on your doormat, taking a driving test, or as I have recently discovered, your children becoming teenagers. However, for teachers all of these will generally pale into insignificance when compared with the prospect of an imminent inspection visit from either Ofsted, ISI or any of the other regulatory bodies.

While few enjoy the stress of assessments, gathering everything necessary to present an inspector in advance of their arrival is another headache that most would rather avoid. Unfortunately there is no magical panacea that will effortlessly turn an inspection into a joyous experience for a school, but there are things that technology can do to help reduce the stress levels associated with these events.

To start with, technology is a great tool for collating and curating all of this evidence and managing this as part of a teacher’s day-to-day practice. If the work that teachers are doing is being recorded in such a way as not to impinge upon their already considerable workloads, and is simultaneousy easily visible to an inspection team, then there is less need for a school to devote a disproportionate amount of time to this task in the days before the team arrives.

Secondly, technology allows us to collect a much broader array of material to demonstrate what is taking place in the classroom. No longer are we restricted to trawling through exercise books to judge the nature of the work set and the feedback given; at best this will only ever give a narrow window into the interaction between the teacher and the learner. Students can show off their creativity and their ability to tackle challenges in new and innovative ways, whilst teachers are better able to record the different ways that they support their students, both in the classroom and in independent study.

Finally, the fact that this material can be made available online means that the disruption to schools can be much reduced. If an inspection team can see examples of student work and teacher feedback before they even visit the school, then this allows them the luxury of actually spending time with students and teachers when on the premises, and as such get a much richer view of the quality of teaching and learning activities taking place.

Education has always been about far more than just exercise books and tests; these are simply an attempt to quantify what takes place in the classroom. Science will tell us that anything being measured is affected by the act of measurement. If we can make inspections less disruptive for schools, then not only will it be easier for those being measured, but the deeper the inspectors’ understanding will be. As we all expand our recognition of how technology can work for us, we can take advantage of the opportunity it provides to gain a richer insight into the gloriously complex process that is teaching.

“The wise learn many things from their enemies.”
Aristophanes

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