What to Expect from an Ofsted Inspection: A Headteacher's Guide

The Inspection Day

Here are the Key Points from Day 1 of the Ofsted Inspection:

1) Team arrived on time and were in the car park some time prior to 8am, they are watching and took note of staff arrival and security systems in place.

2) Welcome the team and the team met for a briefing together. Our agreed timescale was to tour the school and meet with teachers at 8:30am. The team were still talking at 8:20am so I entered the room and asked them to be prompt as my teachers needed to return to class in good time. (Remember, you are the boss and if there is time slippage that affects the quality of teaching, you are within your rights to take charge).

3) The tour grounded the team in the physical environment and is a chance to underpin the school values) but I was sure to point out the range of additional activities undertaken across the day such as Sensory Circuits, Golden Club, Behaviour Room, Breakfast Club, After School Club, Wake-Up-And-Shake-Up etc. to ensure the team built in opportunities to observe these in action.

During the tour I spoke about our mission statement and vision words and referenced our key priorities to ground the team in these (after briefing all staff and children to ensure these were coursing through our veins too).

4) The team then met with the teaching staff and informed them that no grade judgments would be made on their lessons. It is worth briefing staff about this as the feedback feels very different in this framework.  Feedback was based around what went well and even better if statements.  Our staff found this very refreshing.

5) Single Central Record was scrutinized.

6) A team member stood at the entrance and spoke with parents on their arrival to school.

7) I booked in a range of joint observations, one with my deputy and four with me to ensure I had sat in with each inspector at least once. Lesson observations were 30mins on average and the team observed me feed back to staff on joint observations. The feedback was precise and led to action points that the teacher then was asked to reflect on as to which element they would take on for their own CPD.

8) Every feedback asked about the impact of CPD so ensure the staff tell a strong tale of how CPD is personalized and impacts on their practice within the lesson observed.  The team were looking for reflective practitioners.

9) TAs need to be active in the learning process so watch out for those administrative tasks creeping in when teachers are being observed.

10) We also introduced Learning Ambassadors, a nominated child in each class to welcome the inspector, tell them the context of the lesson and learning objectives and where to sit.; the team loved this.  (I gave all my staff Jackie Beere’s book the Perfect OFSTED Lesson last year and this is where we got the idea of Learning Ambassadors from).

11) In joint observations, books were sifted through to ensure marking was formative, children were responding to this, assessing without levels was evidenced as progressive and children understood what to do to improve.  Inspectors also looked for evidence that concepts were being built upon from prior learning and that new learning or deepening understanding was evident in the lesson.

12) Although lessons were not graded, I spoke about the grades in ‘old money’ stating that if I were making a judgment, what that would be a why. This helped the inspectors see my judgments were rigorous and accurate. I didn’t need to validate the quality of teaching but could have used my monitoring file to justify this as my judgments were validated as accurate by each team member.

13) I was heard reading with six children, two from Y1, Y3 and Y5. The inspector was listening to the phonic strategies used by children to decode and interpret the text. 

14) Inspectors were very complimentary about working walls as this was a clear form of assessing without levels as conceptual progression was self-assessed by children and teachers alike.

15) A final team meeting was held at the end of day 1 at 4pm.  This is where the team members report back to the lead inspector on their impression of evidence across the five areas, ignoring overall effectiveness at this stage. The school was allowed to add evidence at this stage. The lead inspector questioned the team as to whether any evidence pointed towards inadequate or RI; if so then day 2 would have to affirm this was good in order to affirm a good grade or higher. Listen to the team and have the inspection framework in front of you as you get a clear view of the direction of travel for the inspection team as they question relating to the evidence in the evaluation schedule. At this point the lead inspector will tell you the key areas of focus for day 2. We made notes on this.

16) I held a final SLT meeting to affirm our direction of travel for day 2.

17) I then sent an email to staff and governors (and SIA where appropriate) on the key points from the day and the elements we needed to demonstrate for day 2.

18) Staff questionnaire was forwarded to the team.

Key Points from Day 2 of the Ofsted Inspection:

1) More lesson observations and feedback for teachers. 

2) The team wanted to see an assembly and PE session. We put on a PE session as a special arrangement as our sports takes place on Thursday afternoon for KS2.  As a result, observations continued into the afternoon of day 2.

3) We selected 7 children from Y 6 to be interviewed by the team. We chose to put an additional child in this as he had come to the school on a managed move and told a valuable story.

4) Myself and my Deputy were invited to the work scrutiny, top – mid – low evidence of maths and writing across the curriculum.  Inspectors like the Big Writing and questioned any inconsistencies in practice they saw, especially where that was evidenced across classes within year groups. The questions that arose were answered by us and demonstrated links to CPD and monitoring outcomes, the team were particularly interested to see how our internal triangulation had led to improvements in progress in work. We presented, where relevant, books from the previous year to demonstrate progress over a year, these were not deeply scrutinized but affirmed our journey to the team.

5) Governing Body interview led to the team questioning all they had seen to ensure triangulation of challenge and involvement of governors. They were testing to see whether governors had a rigorous and knowledgeable approach to school improvement.  They tested safeguarding procedures financial safeguards, monitoring visits and clarity of roles and responsibilities.  Like with teachers the governor’s CPD was questioned as was the impact of the training on their practice/effectiveness as governors.

6) Parent View was printed by us and presented to the team.

7) Parents were interviewed – I had primed specific parents to seek a presence with the team and could tell a particular story.  In addition, other parents crept in also and told a great story of progress to the team.

8) The team wanted to test how deeply the school vision statement went so questioned parents, pupils, governors, lunch staff, office staff regarding their interpretation of the values and vision.  Make sure everyone buys in to the vision! 

9) I briefed (via text) the SIA of the direction of the inspection and had a brief chat on his arrival prior to meeting the team to ensure the discussion went in the right direction.

10) During Day 2 I threw a range of extra evidence to the team. I showed the lead inspector two videos we had made from our whole school unit weeks, I took her through two presentations outlining our vision and values and our displays over time (demonstrating our ‘irresistible curriculum’). We also presented scrap books of our exemplar work from last year.

Key messages:

• Work with the team and see yourself as part of the team with a voice in the process (your voice has more gravitas if you back up your evidence with reference to the OFSTED evaluation schedule).

• Remember you are in charge of your school – you can direct inspectors if your school systems or timings are compromised.

• Ensure your school vision is visible throughout the school, staff, children, governors and community.

• Make sure if you say you are doing something, teachers, middle leaders, governors and children will back this up under triangulation scrutiny.

• Present the best books that show progress, response marking and action relating to your key priorities.

• Know your RAISE and present arguments to qualify any gaps.

• If you give the team a key document (ie school plan or assessment data) talk it through with a team member, don’t presume they will understand your system.

• Offer documents but be selective, less often tells a richer story. If there is more needed, the team will ask.

• Listen to feedback with the Framework for Inspection by your side; this tells you where the team will be going next.

• Ensure you have a record of training in e-safety and cyber-bullying and children are taught about this (current hot potato).

• Ensure you have a clear statement about how you deal with non-partisan views (ie extremist views by staff).

• Remember you are in charge, be honest about the areas you are developing but be prepared to argue if you feel the team have not understood a key area.  Your arguments are heard with greatest clarity when you relate them to the Framework for School Inspection (talk in their language). 

This reflection gives you some pointers on what OFSTED are looking for in the current framework. Bear in mind (health warning) this relates to the context of my school and the flavour of the team who led our inspection. The outcome of this inspection was that in the two years since our last inspection and choosing to convert to a primary academy in January 2013; the school moved from RI to Outstanding.

Have you recently had an Ofsted visit? How did it go? Get in touch to share your experiences.

This article was originally posted here: http://chizkent.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/pedagogical-ramblings-on-ofsted-call.html

What would you do if you received a phone call advising Ofsted Inspectors would arrive at your school the next day? Here is how  Headteacher Graham Chisnell managed the phone call and prepared for a short notice Ofsted visit.  

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