Inspection shadowing scheme for aspiring leaders

23 Oct 2012

To mark Black History Month and Diversity Awareness Month this October, we highlight a successful shadowing programme that has benefited more than 150 Black and Asian school and college leaders since 2004.

Jointly delivered by Ofsted, the National College for School Leadership, and the Network for Black Professionals, the Black Leadership Initiative gives school and college staff the opportunity to shadow Ofsted inspectors and gain a good understanding of the inspection process. The programme is intended to contribute to increasing the diversity of the school leadership workforce, partly by addressing the under representation of Black and Asian staff at this level.

What the inspector says
Amraz Ali HMI, who manages the initiative explains, ‘We use set criteria to identify candidates that are most likely to benefit from the scheme and we obtain references from their employers. We look for people who want to develop the skills and confidence for promotion within their sectors, and for those who are interested in applying to become additional inspectors. 

‘All our participants attend a briefing day. It includes workshops on the skills and knowledge needed by inspectors, methods we use during inspection and the principles of inspection. A key element of the scheme is that each individual is assigned to an HMI (Her Majesty's Inspector) who provides one-to-one mentoring and guidance and decides on an appropriate programme of activities of working alongside inspectors.

‘Before each shadowing visit, we explain the type of information we look at before inspections and send participants materials to analyse, which we then discuss. They are also given the chance to practise necessary skills such as compiling evidence forms and writing reports. All participants sign an agreement confirming that they will respect the confidentiality of the inspections.

‘College staff shadow an inspection of a college, and since 2008, those from schools are offered shadowing experiences at two different schools. The shadowing includes observing meetings with staff, students and other stakeholders, looking at documentation and observing a small number of lessons. Shadows discuss the inspection findings with their host inspectors and observe team meetings, but they do not contribute to the inspection’s conclusions.

‘After the visit, participants reflect with the HMI on what they have learned and many tell us that their experience has given them valuable new insights into school performance and effectiveness. We give them ongoing tailored support to help them improve their schools and their own career development.’

What external assessors say
The school scheme has recently been externally evaluated on behalf of the National College for School Leaders, and the findings are extremely positive. The survey found that 95% of Black and Asian leaders and 100% of head teachers would recommend the programme to other colleagues. A substantial majority (67%) of respondents to the participant survey considered that their career position had improved or significantly improved since participating in the shadowing programme, with more than three quarters taking more interest in pursuing the National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH).

Recent tracking of participants in the college scheme has suggested that two-thirds of participants in the first two cohorts of the programme have achieved promotion, although this cannot be directly attributed to the initiative itself.

What school leaders say
Some of the feedback from participants includes:
The shadowing programme is unique and innovative and helped me to reflect on my career’;
It has made me realise how valuable the role of inspections is in a school's development’;
This was the best professional and personal development I’ve ever had’.

To listen to the views of two participants and for a headteacher’s perspective, click on the linked names to the videos below:

  • Kulvarn Atwal, Deputy Headteacher, and Sherlyn Ramsay, Headteacher at Uphall Primary School, Ilford, Essex.
  • Reema Reid, Head of School, Iqra Primary School, London Borough of Lambeth.

Further information
For more information about the scheme contact:
Additional information can also be found on the National College website at:

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Annual Report 2012/13