This post is about those all important visitors we all love to hate and vilify- the Ofsted inspectors. I’ve been promising to write this for several weeks for some twitter pals, so what better opportunity than a Bank Holiday weekend.
My aim is is to address it to SLT, teachers and NQTs. I can’t address everything but I hope to cover the most important information. I invite all educators to pick and choose the parts you want to help you as you prepare for Ofsted.
I’m not an Ofsted inspector as many of you will know. Nor am I an expert on the subject. What I have done is read all the success stories and indeed the horror stories and compile them in to what I hope is a useful insight in to what might help us all as teachers.
Whatever your role in school remember its all about the impact. Whatever action you take think about the impact on the children, subject and whole school. If there is no impact, don’t do it.
As everyone knows there are now four parts for Ofsted to evaluate. Leadership and management, teaching and learning, behaviour and attainment. All four areas are the responsibility of the whole school in my opinion but senior leaders must remember that the book stops with them. They have a reduced timetable, enhanced pay and have accepted the responsibility. Take up the challenge and be there to guide and support the staff and help them to feel confident in their roles.
The SEF form should be a working document and as such updated regularly. Keep it to a couple of sides of A4 and make it sharp and succinct. Include the statutory policies for Ofsted. Add your lesson observation data as a percentage and remember that your Performance Management documents must tie in with what you are claiming on your SEF. If you have teachers on UPS show the impact they make. Add your Pupil Premium data and attendance data to the SEF. Add some key assessment data to give a flavour of progress. Give a judgement at the end for all sections of your SEF. The SEF is Ofsted’s first glimpse of your school. Make it work for you and let it help your school to shine.
As senior leaders know your stuff. Sounds simple because its true. Be able to relate to anyone who asks that CPD is identified from your school’s vision and School Improvement Plan. This is also linked to Performance Management where individual training needs are identified. This filters through to lesson plans and finally the impact on the school, children and the individual.
The leadership team should have a ream of lesson observations, preferably joint observations with school improvement partner. Anyone can have a bad day and lesson observations will prove how a teacher normally performs. Know your teachers well and be able to identify strengths and weaknesses. If there any weaknesses say what measures you have taken to combat these. No one is expected to be perfect. We’re only human after all.
Be clear about your behaviour policy. It’s vital that all staff are singing from the same hymn sheet. Articulate school’s policy to children, staff and parents. If possible have parents sign up to the school’s behaviour policy so that everyone has ownership. Teachers should be consistent with their behaviour strategies and be prepared to talk about the impact of the strategies. Many schools have individual behaviour plans for more challenging students. This is a good idea as it helps with consistency and you can also measure the impact of your strategies.
My own role is Assessment leader. In my eyes assessment is the most important part of the whole inspection. If your assessment is strong you are off to a flying start. The best advice I can give is to know your data inside out. Tell the story. Know the key data such as core subject data, end of key stage data, pupil premium data, FSM, gender and so on. I also track separate strands within each subject and look for areas of weakness. Teachers are then asked to plan interventions and the impact of those interventions is measured next half term. As a teaching body we sit together and moderate pupil work to ensure consistency of marking and assessment. We also join with other schools and moderate on a regional basis. This all helps to inform the assessment story. Ofsted ask you to use RAISEonline and FFT and the data dashboard. None of these are useful to me as we are a special school. They are vital to mainstream schools and will form the basis of your assessment. When I observe lessons I always begin with the lesson objectives. If the objectives are not challenging enough the lesson will not receive a high grade from me. This may seem harsh but rightly or wrongly I believe assessment is a high priority.
Subject leaders should know their subject in detail. Know the data. Has it improved from last year? Have you addressed any weaknesses? What is the impact of any initiatives you have introduced? Be prepared to show how you support class teachers. Do you involve your team in coaching, peer mentoring and do you run subject meetings. Again, tell the story. It’s your chance to prove your worth.
Class teachers have a tough role in my opinion. They have a full timetable and are subject to new initiatives from the Government, SLT and subject leaders. In primary teachers may have to plan 11 subjects and take account of the wishes of all those people just mentioned. My advice is to stay calm. Organise your classroom well. Have a seating plan so that children are used to sitting with certain peers. Keep your displays fresh and appealing. Have your teaching file organised to show your plans and assessment and marking criteria. I also use Evernote to show photographic examples of children’s work. This allows a quick and easy work scrutiny. Keep your marking up to date if possible. With Evernote and thorough planning and assessment you won’t go far wrong. Don’t try anything new for Ofsted. Some teachers say otherwise but I try to stick with what I know works. Have a lesson plan for Ofsted. I know this is no longer a requirement but if you have it there it helps you to remember everything you want to say and do. Ofsted will now ask the children if the lesson is normally like this. Therefore you need to be consistent in your teaching.
Brand new for the Ofsted 12 framework is the enhanced role given to school governors. Check that they know what is really happening in school. Do they ask for and read subject reports? Do they ask challenging questions? Hopefully they are not complacent and will challenge decisions made by head teachers and the SLT. A good governing body is important for all schools. Be sure they are fully aware of what is happening as some will most certainly be interviewed.
These are just a few of my thoughts concerning Ofsted. Their role is to be supportive and to help schools to improve their performance for the good of all pupils. Our role is to provide a good education for all. If we are fully prepared for Ofsted it should be a productive experience for all concerned. Please remember this is our chance to sell our schools and show that as teachers we are experts at what we do.