Wednesday the 28th and Thursday the 29th of January 2015. Two important days in my Senior Leadership career. These two days saw my school receive a full Section 5 Ofsted Inspection. In this
short blog I would like to share some tips/observations and reflections about the inspection and its process both as a school and a member of SLT.
Tuesday, around 13.30pm, I was summoned by a frantic looking member of support staff to go to meet other SLT in our meeting room.
‘Where were you? I have been looking everywhere for you!’
My response’s tone couldn’t have been more opposite,
‘Hi, I have been running an annual review, as per my calendar. Why what’s the panic!?’
I replied with a beaming smile.
Usually what would have happened if somebody was searching for me is they would radio for me. If no luck, they would call my admin assistant or Learning Support Manager and ask simply, do you know where Amjad is. The response would be easy for them as they would check my Outlook calendar. (Which I obsessively write all my daily things to ‘do’ in on.)
I guess the lack of usual behaviour is a by product of the feelings that Ofsted bring!
After reading many reminder emails sent out by Heads of Department to their teams containing lots of reassurance that we are proud of what we are doing and to simply keep doing what we are, all SLT met the staff to inform them of the process and reassured them (again), that we are a very good, effective school. The Head stood there confidently and let everyone feel that we are ready and proud. The face we, as SLT present to the staff is crucial…
Our SLT team all met up and discussed the big two days, in detail. We clarified who would meet with which inspector and the Head and her P.A created and outline programme. This was done really quickly. It was extremely helpful to see the what we could potentially be doing! We also researched the inspection team; found out a little about their backgrounds, their specialisms and read their previous reports.
We ordered all staff pizza on both days in case they were going to stay late in school.
What did I do personally? Well, firstly, I didn’t send any of my team any reminder emails. I went round and tried to see them all. I asked them if I could support or help them with anything. I answered any questions they had. I felt it important to be a presence of clarity. They too offered me help, asked if I needed a hand with anything, and I took a couple of them up on the support.
When I finally reached my office, at around 6.30pm, my Learning Support Manager had kindly left our ‘Ofsted’ pack on my desk. We had previously planned a protocol for the call. She was following it exactly as we discussed. (What a star!) My Assistant SENCO, was there still, to simply ask me, ‘Is there anything you need me to do.’ There is an immeasurable value in colleagues being there for one another, if this is missing in your department or school then seek to fix it. Now. I left school at 9.30pm. Which meant I returned home for 10.30pm. I ate, marked some books further, planned my lessons, updated my SPOT folders and went to bed around 1am.
Day one/two: Flew by in a mad blur!
I arrived to school earlier than normal. Which meant I was in school by 6.30am, (I had to leave my house at 5.30am, which required me to wake up at 4.30am- ouch!) On arrival I went round and asked colleagues if they were OK, popped into the Heads office, shouted ‘Morning Boss!’ Like I do daily. Ensuring you maintain as regular a routine as possible is fundamental to surviving an Ofsted inspection.
Going up to my office I was smiling, thinking I am glad Ofsted are here on Week A; Wednesday and Thursday, the two days I teach two lessons on each day. This is what I feel strongest and most comfortable doing: teaching. The least stressful part of the whole process was when I was delivering those lessons. I guess the thought of any of the five inspectors coming in to judge my lessons didn’t bother me one bit. In fact I willed it to happen. I am used to this, I went through my GTP process to acquire my QTS in this procedure. Then my AST qualification in similar fashion. Us, SLT Being observed by Ofsted means that teaching staff know that we are open to judgement too, that our procedures, tracking, marking and assessment are also open to scrutiny. I wanted to show that we model what we preach/expect. Nonetheless, we do this without Ofsted. We expect all HODS to carry out learning walks on us, paired observations on us and so on.
Throughout the two days all of SLT was scheduled in for joint lesson observations with he inspectors. We were then observed giving feedback. We carried out joint learning walks with the inspectors too and ask to talk through our findings. We were also invited in for interviews with the inspectors. (Mine included- Year 7 Catch Up money impact. SEN/D provision and Pupil Premium impact.) We were also asked to attend debriefs with middle leaders and other members of SLT.
Things kept changing, but we rolled with it. All with a smile on our face. (We hope!)
So, here are my top tips in general related to the Ofsted experience these are my opinions! (In no particular order…) I am hoping to speak with other members of SLT/Middle Leaders and gather their thoughts too.
- Be proud, be ready, be clear, be honest.
- Have all your documentation ready- School Improvement Plan & School Self Evaluation, ensure all staff are being consistent. For example, all of our staff have a SPOT file for each class. (Student Progress Over Time folders.)Their SPOT folder contains detailed, annotated information about each student. Their attendance. Annotated seating plans, along with data and tracking sheets. Annotated if relevant.
- Ensure all staff know their roles and what they are responsible for. This might sound obvious, but being really clear about this is vital.
- Have all generic paperwork- like lesson plan proformas, observations forms etc in a central location for all staff access.
- Update your website, let all involved know, pre-warn all the students that additional adults may be in their lessons. (Particularly important for ASC students.) Celebrate successes with all students. Let them know they should be proud of their school. (This shouldn’t just be for Ofsted!) This should be regular. We do this via a weekly newsletter and a fortnightly Cheney News video that all tutor groups show.
- Have a central location/room for your inspectors to work. Provide them fresh water and food. Hospitality is important.
- Ensure the inspectors follow the usual safeguarding procedures. I.E sign them in, give them name badges. Tell them your policy and so on.
- Involve everyone in the schedule. From the Head Teacher to the cleaners. Let every know know their value in the machine that is school.
- Know your data, do not present statistics that you do not understand. If you do not know, then ask! Talk through data together. Have a clear picture of the picture!
- Be passionate, enthusiastic and ambitious. Be like your SIP and SEF states! More so…
- Ensure the Inspection team know about which lessons are being covered because of a planned/expected/unexpected absence(s). Alert them to what whole school events are going on. Also which teachers teach across a variety of phases and subjects. Try to get inspectors to avoid observing one teacher more than any other teacher. However, do not change things that you are doing. For example, we had Year 9 Immunisations planned for the Thursday. this would interrupt many lessons. but we maintained this. Changes are not good- the Ofsted inspection team go through the school website/calendar with a fine tooth-comb before hand anyway!
- Ensure all staff are aware of the inspection framework. It is quite a big document. Could you summarise it for your teams? Ask them which elements are relevant for them. This changes often, however, the most recent one can be found here!
- During the inspection collect via email, information on the types of questions being asked by the inspectors. Their routines. This can help prepare for day two
- Have a clear picture of your teaching ‘grades.’ Although Ofsted do not judge individual teachers, they do make an ‘unofficial’ overall judgement of Teaching and Learning. This inspection they did not observe any member of SLT, no core subject leader and only 1 of our 6 ASTs.
Overall, do you know your students and is there a relentless drive to ever improve the quality of teaching and learning.
- Keep the governors in the loop! Ofsted will check through the governors minutes, is your SIP/SEF constantly monitored.
New To The Post:
Here are my top tips as a first time senior leader facing Ofsted! (In no particular order also…)
- Prepare an Ofsted protocol with your entire team. I have a massive team of over 40 members of staff. Including teaching and support staff. Rehearse what you will all do once the call has been made. Essentially a fire drill. Have a ‘
Ofsted‘ file ready. Present this to Ofsted. If they say, like they did this time, that they do not have time to read it, then, like I did, tell them to find time. To take the files away with them to do so.
- Have all your important documentation to hand. Printed. Annotated. Use post it notes to highlight salient points. Not necessarily for the inspectors to see, but for you to draw them out during discussions/interviews with the Ofsted inspectors.
- Keep organised. Keep up to date with the changes in the schedule. Know where you are going and when. Be early. DO not be late. I created a folder in my Outlook email. I tagged emails linked to Ofsted with another colour. I also, ensured my to list linked to Urgent, Important only.
- Know your data and thus the students behind the data. Know the teamthat support the students too.
- Talk about impact, along with plans. If something isn’t going well, then be able to talk about why and what you plan on doing. Talk about changes you have made since last year, since this year.
- Link everything with teaching and learning. All you are doing, planning and trailing must be linked to quality first teaching and learning.
- Have case studies detailing successes and reasons for apparent failures. Link this to Raise online. Expected progress scatter graph. In the case studies, highlight all interventions put in place. Create these as a chronology of support. Be clear that you tried all you could. But, most importantly, what you will do differently/better this year.
- Do not put yourself first. Do not bemoan how much work you have to do to your team. Be supportive to your staff/team/teachers/support staff. Ask if they need anything, help them first. Keep everybody involved. Aniexty and nerves from your team or you is not good! Ask for help, if you need it.
- Annotate with a document the SIP and SEF with your actions to date. What you have achieved and how. Link this to your govenors meetings.
- Do not be stressed or worry if anyone else is stressed or snappy at you. It is the Ofsted blindness. Do not worry if anybody else is slightly out of character. Just smile and try to be as helpful as you can. If you snap, or become stressed, apologies when relevant. People will understand.
- Do not change your routines. Do not go over the top. Other than Ofsted your team, your colleagues and the school will notice the change. They will ask why this wasn’t your normal routine. Do not do things for the sake of Ofsted.
- Prevent at all costs the climate of fear. Do not let your emotions become obvious or apparent. Be a shield for your team.
- Contact your link governor, reassure them you are all OK and ask if they need anything more from you. Ensure their reports are with you and you are ready to discuss them.
Once we have received the report, I will add to this post about what to do post an Ofsted inspection…
Since Ofsted has been…
- The Head has met up with all staff and thanked them for their continued hard work.
- SLT have met up and forensically analysed the unofficial feedback from Ofsted. We linked them to the Inspection framework and highlighted strengths and areas of improvement.
- I have met up with my team and thanked them for their hard work.
- Read the Ofsted report and suggested any changes to matter of facts/wording.