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Preparing for inspection

May 14, 2009

Hello again,

Any school belonging to an accreditation scheme will have to accept regular inspections to check its standards. For all the staff involved ...

... such inspections are both stressful and irksome. I have heard the following comments: we have to put on a performance for the inspectors; they don’t see how we usually work; and: accreditation imposes uniformity on schools; we pride ourselves on being different but inspectors don’t understand that.

Of course there is some truth in each of these comments. But the fact remains that a school has to be able to demonstrate that it is adhering to basic standards and inspection appears to be the best way of monitoring schools. It would be interesting to send in “mystery” students on the model of mystery shoppers, but it is difficult to see how that could be put into practice. Spot checks might be a better system than a full-scale inspection, but that might involve even more stress. So, given that inspections are a fact of life, how can schools prepare?

It should be viewed as an opportunity for a school to review its systems and practices. All departments should understand the specifications demanded by the scheme and check their systems and performance against those standards. I think it is a good idea to have one department inspect another. If any deviations from the scheme are found, they should be examined and either adjusted of justified. I think one very important point to bear in mind is that schools have a first responsibility to their students, so all systems should be devised with the interests of the students being a priority.

Inspectors will need to see that the premises and facilities are in good order so the pre-inspection period is a good time to carry out any repairs, update equipment and spruce up the décor. Administrative systems need to be efficient and transparent. Promotional material should be informative and accurate. Special attention will be paid to the way schools deal with juniors, so all welfare systems need to be checked to ensure that young people are properly protected.

However, teachers are the ones who usually feel they bear the brunt of inspections. I think the best approach is to play safe. Plan to teach lessons that you feel confident with and use tried and tested materials. This may not give you the opportunity to show off your most creative side but it will help reduce risk and stress. It would also help teachers to get used to the idea of an extra pair of eyes in the classroom if peer observation is set up on a regular basis.

One final point to make is that students are the best sources of feedback for your standards. Take all their post-course comments very seriously and try to deal with any weaknesses they have spotted. If students are giving the school glowing reports, then so should accrediting insectors.

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