Ofsted Shadowing Programme case studies: Tracy Dohel

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An insightful, invaluable and very worthwhile experience

Tracy Dohel is vice principal of Pimlico Academy, a secondary school based in London.  

Tracy says the best thing about working in education is that she feels she “has found a profession that is the ideal match to my skill set”.  

Tracy is Indian, the youngest of seven children brought up in a home that she describes as a happy mix of traditional values, but with the predisposition to immerse itself in its cultural contexts. As a child, she remembers her father encouraging her to be independent and, as a result, being left to her own devices. Such freedom enabled her to learn from her mistakes. She worked in the City of London after graduating from university but, after three years, questioned whether this was making the best use of her maths degree. Teaching beckoned.

Tracy started her maths teaching career in an inner city school in the UK. She then moved on to teach in a private school in Bogota, Columbia. On returning to Britain, she was a supply teacher and then became a head of department where she oversaw a rise in standards from 64 per cent higher grades at GCSE to 94 per cent. There were eight maths ‘A’ level groups running concurrently under her leadership. She became a consultant in Lambeth, before going back into school as an assistant head.

Tracy heard about the Ofsted Shadowing Programme through her sister, who is an Ofsted inspector. Tracy understood the need for positive action initiatives such as these, being the only “ethnic minority” on her senior leadership team. Her headteacher supported her application knowing that it would be good for her and, in turn, good for the school.

Although the last inspection in her school was outstanding, Tracy still felt that her training would assist her school further. She describes the Ofsted Shadowing Programme as being very insightful - an experience that has left her with a completely different view of inspectors. She feels that it has boosted her credibility among colleagues and other members of staff. Although knowledge of the self-evaluation framework (SEF) and RAISEonline were both areas of work in which she was regularly involved, she felt that her experiences in another school under inspection conditions were invaluable.

Tracy describes her lead inspector as "phenomenal". She got to see the extremes of the process as both schools were in challenging circumstances.

Tracy is much more confident about observing lessons and giving feedback although these were already existing areas of strength in her school. She feels that, having gone through the process, she now not only has more kudos but has deepened her skills in diplomacy - "hard on the issues, soft on the person," to quote Gloria Dolan HMI (Her Majesty's inspector) who led the initial day’s briefing for applicants to the programme prior to the inspections.

Since undertaking the Ofsted Shadowing Programme, Tracy has been promoted. She was so pleased about her inspector’s report that she used it in her application for vice principal. It gave her the edge and, a month after inspection, she successfully applied for the vice principal role that she now holds.

Tracy is currently in the process of training to become a part-time Ofsted inspector.

Tracy’s progression route

  1. Maths teacher
  2. Teacher at a private school in Columbia
  3. Teacher at an international school in Spain
  4. Supply teacher
  5. Head of maths
  6. Maths consultant
  7. Assistant principal
  8. Vice principal

Tracy’s advice for future applicants

“This is a very worthwhile training experience, most likely suited to someone who is moving from middle to senior management or new to senior management.

"It can support and further shape thinking about school practice and improvement. It provides a unique opportunity to gain first hand experience of how judgements are made.

"It is an excellent continuing professional development opportunity that can also be a great addition to a supporting statement for job applications, as so few people will have had the experience.”