Education and Childcare Inspector

The Job and What's Involved

Ensuring that children receive the best possible standards of care and that people of all ages have access to excellent standards of education and training is essential for a successful society.

Education and childcare inspectors visit services that provide care (such as childminders and children's social care facilities) and education (including schools, colleges and community education providers) to assess and evaluate standards, advise on improvements and report on their findings. Different countries have different bodies that are responsible for education and childcare inspection:

In England, the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) is responsible for inspecting and regulating care facilities for children and young people as well as education and skills training for people of all ages.

In Wales, Estyn is responsible for inspecting education and training provision. The Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales inspects care, early years and social services.

Different arrangements apply in Scotland.

Job descriptions vary between employers and roles, but may include:

  • Preparing for the inspection by reading previous reports.
  • Registering childcare providers after checking that they meet official standards.
  • Inspecting lesson plans and observing lessons or childcare sessions.
  • Looking at students' work.
  • Talking to people, for example carers and childminders, head teachers, teachers and groups of pupils to gather information.
  • Inspecting facilities and equipment.
  • Discussing their findings with inspection team colleagues and comparing them with national standards.
  • Giving constructive feedback.
  • Writing clear, concise official reports.
  • Monitoring schools and other establishments that are giving cause for concern.

There are two types of Ofsted inspector. Her Majesty's Inspectors (HMIs) are civil servants employed by Ofsted (in England) or Estyn (in Wales). Additional inspectors (independent inspectors in Wales) work under contract to Ofsted for partner organisations.

Normal working hours are around 36 hours a week from Monday to Friday. Additional hours may be required when conducting inspections.

Inspectors are based in their own homes, but spend much of their time conducting inspections in childcare facilities, schools and colleges. Many are self-employed. They are expected to dress smartly in keeping with their professional status. Because of the nature of the work they are likely to be away from home fairly frequently. A driving licence is required.

Salaries for childcare inspectors start at around £23,500 a year (£21,000 in Wales). HMIs earn from around £48,500 to around £61,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

In England, Ofsted works in partnership with five other organisations to deliver school and college inspections:

  • Nord Anglia Education covers school inspections in the north of England and college inspections throughout England.
  • The Centre for British Teachers (CfBT) covers school inspections in the north of England.
  • Cambridge Education inspects schools in the Midlands and independent schools throughout England.
  • Tribal Education covers school inspections in the Midlands and south of England.
  • The Prospects Group covers school inspections in the south of England.

In Wales, Estyn employs 800 HMIs. They are responsible for inspecting schools, including non-maintained settings, and a broad range of providers of education and training for post-16 learners. Estyn also recruits and trains independent inspectors who work with approved contractors on school inspections. The majority of school inspections are carried out by independent inspectors. School inspection teams also include lay members who do not have a background in education. Inspection teams may also include: additional inspectors; peer assessors, who are practitioners in specialist areas; and a nominee from the education provider being inspected.

Ofsted usually advertises vacancies in The Times Educational Supplement during January.

Applicants are expected to undergo a Criminal Records Bureau check before taking up posts.

Education and Training

In England, an Ofsted inspector must have a relevant degree and/or equivalent professional qualification, for example, a teaching qualification for school inspectors, or relevant vocational and/or teaching qualification for college inspectors and/or a leadership and management qualification.

They must also have a minimum of five years' recent experience in a setting such as teaching, training, inspecting or advising, preferably in more than one institution or in a wide range of duties in the same institution. This should include a minimum of two years' recent and substantial management. They also need up-to-date professional knowledge of education and training. Childcare inspectors must have significant experience in a childcare setting.

In Wales, inspectors working for Estyn are required to have at least qualified teacher status (QTS) and a higher education qualification such as a degree or HND. They need at least five years' experience of teaching and experience in more than one school, tertiary college or further education college, or a significant range of responsibilities and experience in one school.

They should also have at least three years' recent experience as a senior or middle manager in school or at least three years' recent experience in advisory work, for example as a school improvement officer in a Local Authority, or at least three years' full-time lecturing on initial teacher training courses. Knowledge and understanding of the Welsh educational context is also required. Full-time HMIs are expected to have a strong track record in education and training. Estyn also offers secondment opportunities to individuals employed by education and training providers in Wales.

Because of the level of experience and qualifications required for this job, it is not open to young people as a first career.

Additional Training You Will Need

In England, additional inspectors working for Ofsted are trained by Ofsted's partner organisations. Training consists of two days' distance learning and tasks, three days' tutored training and two days on an inspection attachment with a mentor. Candidates are assessed at each stage. During the training period they build a portfolio which forms part of the final assessment. Candidates are expected to fund their own training fees. The induction programme for HMIs runs for up to the first year of employment. It contains a mixture of formal training and joint inspections and each new HMI has a mentor.

Childcare inspectors receive job-specific training. Training lasts for 12 weeks. It is a mixture of classroom learning, accompanied visits and personal consolidation at home.

In Wales, people who express an interest in becoming an independent inspector are invited to attend a training and assessment course consisting of two modules. Module 1 is a three-day course that trains and assesses aspiring inspectors in the use of the Common Inspection Framework and the core inspection skills. Module 2 is a two-day course that trains and assesses aspiring inspectors to inspect in a particular phase or sector.

Successful candidates are qualified to become team inspectors in primary, secondary or special schools. Those with appropriate experience may seek training and accreditation in further phase modules at a later date.

Candidates to become additional inspectors attend a five-day training and assessment course. Successful participants are placed on a tender list for bidding for additional inspector work. People employed in education and training in Wales can apply, with the support of their employer, to become a peer assessor. Training is by a three-day training course and those successful are invited to join an inspection team when their specialism is required.

Full-time HMIs receive an induction into Estyn's work and their sector specialism when they take up their post. They are subject to a six-month probation period.

All education and childcare inspectors are expected to keep their skills and knowledge up to date through Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

An education and childcare inspector should:

  • Be able to gather, analyse and interpret relevant evidence.
  • Use that evidence to make fair, objective judgements.
  • Have excellent written and spoken communication skills.
  • Be confident using IT, especially word processing software and email.
  • Be able to work well as part of a team and on their own initiative.
  • Be confident using complex statistical information.
  • Be good at planning, organisation and problem solving.
  • Understand how to deal with sensitive and confidential information.
  • Be able to write clear, concise and unbiased reports.
  • Have excellent observational and interviewing skills.
  • Be able to work under pressure and meet challenging deadlines.

Your Long Term Prospects

In England, an HMI may apply for promotion to assistant divisional manager or divisional manager. Additional inspectors may apply to become HMIs. Childcare inspectors may have promotion opportunities to become senior childcare inspectors with management responsibilities.

In Wales, experienced independent inspectors working for Estyn may nominate themselves to become registered inspectors, who lead on the inspection of a school. They need the support of an approved contractor and, if they meet the criteria, they will be invited to attend a training day and to submit a portfolio of inspection work. If their portfolio is acceptable the nominee will be invited to attend an assessment day. Those who complete the assessment day successfully will be allowed to work as registered inspectors.

Full-time HMIs can apply for promotion, by open competition, to the posts of managing HMI, head of directorate or chief inspector. Temporary promotions for developmental purposes are sometimes available to suitable internal members of staff.

Get Further Information

Cambridge Education, Demeter House,
Station Road, Cambridge CB1 2RS
Tel: 01223 578500

Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW),
Cathays Park, Cardiff CF10 3NQ
Tel: 01443 848450

CfBT Education Trust,
60 Queen's Road, Reading, Berkshire RG1 4BS
Tel: 0118 902 1000

Estyn, Anchor Court, Keen Road, Cardiff CF24 5JW
Tel: 029 2044 6446

Nord Anglia Education PLC, Nord House, Third Avenue,
Centrum 100, Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire DE14 2WD
Tel: 0845 225 3030

Ofsted, Royal Exchange Buildings,
St Ann's Square, Manchester M2 7LA
Tel: 08456 404040

Prospects Learning Services,
132-138 High Street, Bromley, Kent BR1 1EZ
Tel: 020 8313 7760

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