Friday, 16 March 2012


Image by Jim Linwood
This week, the college in which I work has gone through an Ofsted inspection. I’ve gone through two inspections whilst working in secondary education but this was my first in further education and I was keen to see the differences...

The word 'Ofsted' provokes panic amongst teaching staff, and although this filters through to support staff, the emphasis is not placed directly on us. Pre-inspection, portfolios of evidence were collected and submitted. The library was asked to contribute to the portfolio representing the E-Services department, and I spent three days gathering as much as I could. Stats, minutes of meetings, e-safety work, leaflets, finance information, screen shots – you name it, I submitted it. I’ve only worked at the college nine months and I found the library blog and annual report invaluable tools in looking back at the department’s activity before this time. Reflectively, doing this helped me ascertain particular areas in which we could improve (SEN provision and computer statistics). It also reminded me of the things we do well - almost all the evidence I needed to provide was there waiting for me - and even made me think CoLRiC's peer accreditation scheme.

Information regarding access to resources was required for the portfolios submitted by curriculum departments. Nine curriculum areas requested this information and I spent four days producing reports and summarising them. It felt like a never-ending task, but when an email was circulated amongst the college directors stating that ‘Cara Clarke in the library’ produces ‘excellent subject specific reports’ it all felt worth it.

On the second day of the inspection the lead inspector came into the library with the principal and I spoke to them about how we support teaching and learning. The inspector was mostly interested in how we utilise technology to do this, but I insisted in giving him a full tour to show off our other resources. A different inspector came into the library on another occasion but his intention was to speak to students rather than staff.

As I write this, it is the end of the inspection and the library has played a greater part than my experiences of Ofsted in secondary education. During my last Ofsted in a school, an inspector’s first question to me was whether I was a qualified teacher. I replied no, I was a qualified librarian instead. Needless to say I was less than pleased at such a question! This time, however, my experience has been completely different. The college is much larger than the school so it is a far more anonymous place in which to work, but I feel the principal’s daily emails of encouragement helped offset this and bring all staff together as a team. It also felt like that when everyone was tucking into cake and bubbly to celebrate the outcome. Overall, it has been quite an intense experience - I have gathered and submitted extensive evidence, produced numerous subject specific reports and been interviewed – and I am proud of my contribution (however small in the grand scheme of things). I work with a great team of assistants and they made me feel very supported in the run up to, and during, the inspection. I was very appreciative of the offers of help that came my way, not to mention all the home-baked goodies that appeared. We pulled together well as a team and I am proud of them. Although I am not a head of department, the Ofsted-related tasks fell on my shoulders and I kept my cool (for most of it). I gave it my best and have hopefully done my department proud.

PS. College beauty students were offering complementary treatments to combat the stress of the inspection and I managed to snap up a free full-body massage!

PPS. On an unrelated note, this is the 100th post on BtB. Hurrah!

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