The dreaded incidental. We call them “drive-bys” for a reason. They (the scary inspectors) arrive as an unpleasant surprise, select their target and do their worst. Ok, not really but the negative connotations are there for a reason!
Having had just one incidental visit from a Department Inspector in my years teaching, I found it to be an experience like that of a trip to the waxing salon. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be but I wouldn’t be rushing back to go through it again.
With the new language curriculum and talk of Droichead included in the ever-changing classroom, we are all curious to know “What do the inspectors want when they come for an incidental?” Are we putting time into the right areas or should we spend more time elsewhere? What paperwork is necessary these days?
I spoke to a senior class teacher in a single-stream, mixed school who recently had an incidental visit and asked the 20 questions we all want to know.
Q: When did the incidental take place?
A: The second week in September.
Q: How did he/she select classes?
A: She chose one class from the Junior end, Middle classes and one from the Senior classes. She did not go with principals suggestions.
Q: What classes did she visit?
A: Sen Infants, Fourth and Fifth
Q:How long did she stay in each class?
A: She spent the morning in Infants, between breaks in the Middle class and after big lunch, she went to the Senior class. She left the last classroom ten mins before home time. She met each teacher individually for feedback (10-15 mins approx) However, she did not give feedback to all involved in Literacy Life-Off or station teaching, she only met the class teacher.
Q:Did she introduce herself to the kids?
A: Yes, she was very friendly and pleasant. She had a little chat and banter with the children upon entering the classroom.
Q: What paperwork did she look for from you?
A: She asked for any planning to date, particularly long terms. I was not asked for fortnightly schemes or my daily diary which was on table. Fortnightly notes were in with Long Terms but she mentioned that she didn’t see it.
Q: Did she comment on the given paperwork?
A: She did not at the time but in the review afterwards she did, she was very positive.
Q: Did she request any particular lessons or did you stick to your timetable?
A: She specified that she wanted us to stick to timetable.
Q: Did she speak to the pupils throughout the lesson/at the end of the lesson?
A: She spoke to them at the beginning only.
Q: Did she look at sample of pupil work/copies/books?
A: Yes. She wanted a sample of copies from the class across Gaeilge, English and Maths. She asked that we select a strong, middle and weak child. She went through 9 copies in total from 3 children.
Q: Did she speak to you in a one to one basis after your lessons?
A: Yes, as mentioned she met with class teachers for feedback and reiew afterwards.
Q: Did she look at your roll book (if you have one?)
A: She did not ask me to see mine, but as it is not kept in the classroom I’m not sure if she asked the principal to see it.
Q: How was her demeanour?
A: She was professional, friendly and approachable.
.Q: Did she look for anything different in these classes?
A: She had the same requirements in each class. Each teacher was asked for the same work samples from the pupils and their own paperwork.
Q: Was there anything that seemed of particular interest to her? (Any initiatives/programmes)
A: She was very keen to see our Literacy Lift Off and Station Teaching lessons.
Q: Did she offer any advice/constructive criticism?
A: Yes, she gave constructive advice. She suggested a written activity at the end of the SESE lesson and a KWL chart before.
Q: Did she refer to the new language curriculum?
A: Yes she spoke of it and how language is central to every lesson ie. SESE (which she observed)
Q: Did she look for your Child Protection Policy/Critical Incident Policy/Code of Behaviour?
A: Yes to all of the above.
Q: Did she tell you anything about a WSE/future visits?
A: She mentioned that we were not off the list because of the incidental visit.
Q: Anything else to add?
A: It was a very positive experience and nothing to be afraid of. Her needs seem to be language, differentiation and assessment. She looked at school standardised test results. She wanted to see in reception where the DLP and DPLP were clearly labelled for visitors. She checked that the Child Protection Policy was on display in each room.