On Monday, I had just delivered my assembly and the children were gustily singing a hymn, when a hand reached over and tapped my shoulder.

The deputy head whispered words, which can strike terror in any head’s heart, "ISI has just called." The ISI is the Independent Schools Inspectorate, the Ofsted equivalent in the state sector.

Preparation for inspection involves sharing various documents, including the school development plan and self-evaluation form to give a flavour of the school.

In recent years, admin-heavy inspections have evolved into a practical assessment of pupil outcomes and community experience. The inspectors talk to the staff, children and garner the views of their parents.

Lesson observations and book reviews continue to feature, and the key term used by all inspectors is ‘triangulation’ – in other words, judgments of any sort can only be reached when there is a congruence of evidence.

At St Anthony’s, a well-known USP is to ensure the children have exposure to high quality teaching. Our paperwork references this, but it is further evidenced in our classrooms and cross-referenced by interviews with the children. Exam results or, in St Anthony’s case, senior school destinations, should align with all the other evidence, hopefully leading to a positive judgment. 

Ham & High: Richard Berlie says that school inspections assess more than teaching and learningRichard Berlie says that school inspections assess more than teaching and learning (Image: St Anthony's Boys School)

Inspections today assess far more than teaching and learning. Areas include social and economic education, spiritual and moral, special education needs (SEN), sports and the creative arts, as well as pastoral provision.

The inspection attempts to capture the 360-experience of children with a focus on the promotion of Protected Characteristics (age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation) and an understanding of the Rule of Law.

Schools must ensure they offer opportunities and support for all children and not just the majority. Many boys will enjoy playing rugby and football, but what about those who don’t? What of those children keen on more intellectual pursuits? At St Anthony’s we have introduced fencing and debating and public speaking societies in order to reach varied interest groups among the pupil body.

The intention is that there should be something for everyone, which chimes perfectly with the school’s ethos of developing the interests and talents of each child. 

A modern inspection was devised in such a way as to encourage dialogue and transparency, and that has been our experience of the new framework. I look forward to sharing the full report when it is published towards the end of February.

  • Richard Berlie is the headmaster at St Anthony's School for Boys in Hampstead.