February 2017

The know zone

  • Modular to linear
    Curriculum and Assessment Specialist Suzanne O’Farrell highlights 12 key points schools could grasp as they move from modular to linear assessment in the classroom. More
  • Paws for thought
    During his formative teaching years, Gareth Burton jotted down memorable moments and exchanges that continue to have a bearing on his teaching career. More
  • Speed-date for inspections?
    Under the present Ofsted inspection system, schools that are rated ‘good’ only have to undergo a shorter day-long Ofsted inspection every three years. What are your views on this? What is your experience of short inspections? How well do you think they work? Here, ASCL members share their views. More
  • Free resources to promote careers
    Focus on… National Careers Week 2017 More
  • Identifying children struggling to understand the written word
    It is easy to overlook, in any battery of statistics, the different patterns that lie behind the main conclusion. 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
  • Generating income
    At a time when school budgets are under serious pressure and with some schools already hitting a financial ‘brick wall’, Business Leadership Specialist Val Andrew looks at ways in which schools could generate income to ease the burden. More
  • Close to the edge
    Small primary schools are facing a bleak financial future unless the government intervenes, says Julie McCulloch. More
  • Retiring thoughts
    Planning for retirement is something that many of us put off until we are almost at the age of retirement. Pensions Specialist Stephen Casey says it’s important that members prepare well in advance to avoid any nasty shocks. More
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Under the present Ofsted inspection system, schools that are rated ‘good’ only have to undergo a shorter day-long Ofsted inspection every three years. What are your views on this? What is your experience of short inspections? How well do you think they work? Here, ASCL members share their views.

Speed-date for inspections?

Lasting stability

Short inspections will work well in the following context: a highly trained inspectorate, a reduced number of areas of inspection, a stable accountability structure and equity of inspection across all schools. They’ll work even better when the day dawns that we have a Chief Inspector who does not seek to reproduce his or her own headship on the entire school system. Good schools come in all shapes and styles and the system should be simple enough and objective enough to hold us all to account for the fundamentals. Short inspections will serve us well in a clear, simple, understandable structure without byzantine embellishments. Every aspect of our system would be helped by lasting stability so short inspections will only work if they are allowed to become part of the system.

(Name and details supplied)
Headteacher, London

Under pressure

I am not sure that short inspections give schools the chance that they need to show themselves in the best light. I have been an Ofsted Inspector who was on a day two of an inspection where the school was upgraded to ‘outstanding’. I felt that I had less understanding of the school than one where I had been in the school for two days.

I have also had experience of a short inspection that converted to a two-day inspection. My staff then went to pieces because although I had said I expected it to go to two days, they were still overwhelmed by this. The sheer inspection pressure that takes place on day two of a converted short inspection drove our staff to play it safe and not show the students or school at its best. In my opinion, it was a contributory factor in us receiving a ‘requires improvement’ judgement.

(Name and details supplied)
Headteacher, South East

Timing is crucial

Having experienced a Section 8, day-long inspection earlier this year, which converted to a Section 5, I do question the validity of decisions made so quickly. We had to argue strongly to go to a second day and it felt like a forced interview pitch when all the data was clearly there. We were fortunate, as the latest Reporting and Analysis for Improvement through school Self-Evaluation (RAISE)/dashboards were all available and current so the time of the year when these inspections happen is critical. As there were only two inspectors on the first day and all the meetings with the senior leadership team (SLT)/ key staff/students/governors take place then, it left minimal time for lesson observations and capturing a true sense of the school. Problems occurred on the second day in securing enough inspectors, and observations continued into the afternoon to ensure that there was a strong enough evidence base for the final decision.

For us, the system worked but I am well aware that this is not always the case.

(Name and details supplied)
Headteacher, East of England

Pros and cons

A significant strength of the current system is that the inspection themes can be discussed and agreed upon in consultation with the lead inspector on the morning of the inspection. This approach provides headteachers and their leadership teams with the opportunity to ensure that the inspection is seen as fair and that the inspection team is genuinely assessing school leaders’ ability to evaluate provision, implement strategies in the areas that require improvement and monitor the impact of these strategies.

Conversely, a weakness to the system is that the pre-inspection hypothesis is that “the school continues to be good” and the inspector(s) spends what amounts to about six hours attempting to gather sufficient evidence to substantiate this. However, this begs the questions: can this assessment of provision be done accurately and reliably, in very large schools in the short timeframe, with one or two inspectors? If not, doesn’t the system disadvantage large schools?

Gareth Burton
Associate Headteacher, Cheltenham Bournside School and Sixth Form Centre