February 2018

The know zone

  • Bold beginnings?
    At last year's ASCL Annual Conference, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector (HMCI), Amanda Spielman, announced that Ofsted would be undertaking a large-scale review of the curriculum. The review's first report focused on the Reception Year and was published in November. Julie McCulloch looks at what it had to say. More
  • Securing your future
    Managing Director of Lighthouse Financial Advice Ltd Lee Barnard, shares tips and information on future proofing your pensions. More
  • You want more?
    Supervising the lunch queue? Shifts as a security guard and car park attendant? It shouldn't happen to a chartered accountant... unless they are a business leader in an academy, of course. More
  • Leaders' surgery
    Hotline advice expressed here, and in calls to us, is made in good faith to our members. Schools and colleges should always take formal HR or legal advice from their indemnified provider before acting. More
  • Careers guidance
    The government wants every school and college in England to have a dedicated careers leader and it has published a careers strategy to highlight this. Here, ASCL members share their views on these plans and on what more can be done to improve careers guidance. More
  • Managing expectations
    Stephen Rollett says preparing for inspection doesn't have to be a difficult process. Here, he shares his top tips to help you through the visit and beyond. More
  • Uncharted waters
    As the government publishes its long-awaited action plan and consultation on T levels, Kevin Gilmartin examines the big issues that the government needs to get right. More
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Stephen Rollett says preparing for inspection doesn’t have to be a difficult process. Here, he shares his top tips to help you through the visit and beyond.

Managing expectations

As a rule of thumb, and according to Ofsted’s Myth Busters, schools should not have to undertake activities in order to prepare for inspection. However, the reality is that most school leaders will spend a great deal of time and energy on getting things right. ASCL has published a new guide designed to help leaders manage their inspection without the need for onerous preparation.

With some forward planning, leaders could gain confidence from understanding the process and may be better placed to spot and address any errors during the inspection, rather than when it is over and too late. In this way, an informed school leader is in a better position to support the inspection process, and could help to ensure a fairer and more accurate judgement.

How does your school stack up?

The desire to know how your school stacks up within the framework also seems reasonable. Most schools are fairly adept at self-evaluation and the common language provided by the Ofsted framework, and descriptors, gives leaders an opportunity to hold up a mirror to the school and consider its strengths, and its weaknesses. If doing so helps them to identify how they can do an even better job for their pupils, this may be worthwhile, regardless of whether Ofsted visits the school or not. It is important to remember that the Ofsted framework is just one window into a school’s effectiveness.

The nature of accountability means that for many leaders, inspection outcomes do matter. If there are quick wins and preferred methods that school leaders can undertake, and that yield a better outcome, then it is understandable why schools may seek them out. It’s just that very few (if any) of these exist anymore – and that’s a good thing. Inspection should not be about ‘putting on a show’.

No longer do teachers and leaders need to strive to find preferred methods of teaching, marking and planning. Rather, the school is left to focus on what really matters – the effectiveness of the day-to-day business of school life. If we accept that many of the old ‘Ofsted preferred’ aspects of previous frameworks have been stripped away, then we are left with a very different type of preparation for inspection.

What should preparation look like?

Apart from ensuring high-quality education over the long-term, good preparation is about looking after yourself, your colleagues and your school. Here are some simple steps to help you:

Develop understanding
Staff don’t need to be bogged down with the Ofsted Handbook but you and the school’s leadership team may find it useful to have sight of some of the key documents that explain the inspection process.

Build confidence
This is why ‘mocksteds’ are strongly discouraged – they risk undermining the confidence of your staff, and, in any case, inspectors place little or no weight on such evidence.

Manage communication
Staff may be anxious about the inspection and the messages you give can make all the difference. Calm and focused staff are more likely to show the best that the school has to offer.

Consider workload
You may want to draw together or identify evidence that will be helpful during inspection. However, you need to ensure that this is manageable for your leadership team and that it does not impact on teachers’ workload.

Ofsted: 101 ideas to help you manage inspection is a pragmatic guide designed to support leaders’ thinking through the inspection process, from receiving the call, to managing the day and even complaining (if necessary). It builds on the principles outlined here and sits comfortably alongside Ofsted’s myths. It does not advocate preparing for inspection over and above the work you would normally do in leading a school.

Ultimately, the best preparation you can do is to ensure you feel informed, confident and in control of the process. The new guide, it is hoped, will help you to achieve this – you can download it here: www.ascl.org.uk/Ofsted101ideas

Your CPD

Stephen is leading Ofsted Seminars on how to be prepared for an inspection – find out more and book your place here www.ascl.org.uk/ofsted2018

Stephen Rollett
ASCL Inspection and Accountability Specialist