These are some initial thoughts following our Section 5 Ofsted Inspection this week at St Gregory the Great Catholic School, Oxford. I obviously won’t make any references to judgements or the evidence that informed them until the report is published. This post, originally published on 26th March 2015, just contains some of my initial reflections about the process, the effectiveness of our preparations, and where we could improve these before the next one.
As you read ahead, please bear in mind that I’m writing this still somewhat sleep-deprived!
This is a re-blog post originally posted by Rodger Caseby and published with kind permission.
The original post can be found here.
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31st March: updated with minor amendments and thoughts on an inspection without lesson observation gradings.
The experiences of other schools who had recently received a visit were immensely helpful in informing our preparation. I’d like to extend my particular thanks to colleagues at Cheney School, Oxford.
The training we received from Ofsted Lead Inspector Mary Myatt on the inspection process and in particular observations and feedback under the new framework was invaluable. I’d certainly recommend getting an expert external perspective in preparation for inspection.
Having key documents ready collated together in files saved us a lot of time in the short space between the call and the visit and was helpful to the Ofsted team. These days we store and access most of our documentation electronically, but it was useful to have hard copies ready to hand. We keep two folders ready: school policies and key documents, including those listed on pages 13 & 14 of the Ofsted handbook.
We store minutes of governors meetings separately, but it would have been useful to include minutes of recent meetings, perhaps for the last term, in the key documents folder.
We forgot to give them maps of the school – that would have helped!
A short briefing to staff by our Principal demonstrating confidence in colleagues and reminding them of some key points worked well.
Some colleagues in their first years of teaching and who hadn’t experienced an Ofsted Inspection before were clearly anxious about the process. While they did receive support from their team leaders, a separate opportunity for this group to ask questions and receive reassurance might be a good idea in the future.
Keeping colleagues informed during the process was helpful, as was senior and middle leaders modelling confidence for their teams. Encouraging colleagues to take up the offer of feedback proved useful, although I had forgotten how daunting this prospect can be for those who haven’t been Ofsted-ed before, so I’ll try to remember that next time around.
As I’ve also seen in previous inspections, the better the evidence you provide, the less they need to talk about it with you. That means that, for example, the lovingly-crafted evaluation I was just bursting to lead them through was just accepted, but they want to talk about something else entirely. That is, of course, a good thing – if you have already communicated something well, they don’t need to inquire further.
As I have also noticed on previous inspections, the time allocated for feedback was not sufficient, so it’s worth remembering that everything planned to take place after these sessions are likely to be pushed back.
This was my first inspection where no lesson observation gradings were given in feedback. After a debate last year, we had introduced this form of feedback in school. I believe it has helped make observation feedback developmental. It seemed to have the same effect during the inspection: staff left feedback talking about what the inspector had told them about their teaching, rather than a judgement. I and SLT colleagues were both observed teaching and giving feedback following joint observations. I felt both were more developmental.
We didn’t get a large Parentview response, despite communicating with parents via all our usual routes (pupils, email, website, Twitter). Perhaps the notice was just too short, but only about 60 responses as a result of the inspection is not many for a school of 1300 pupils. We clearly need to discuss with parents on how to encourage engagement with this questionnaire. Any suggestions on this would be really helpful.
Being able to observe the Ofsted team meetings at the end of both days gave me a real insight into the process, especially how lines of enquiry were developed and pursued and how rigour in judgements is achieved. It was also apparent how little time the team had to collect and analyse evidence, so if you want them to see something, don’t be reticent about pushing good evidence towards them.
Lastly, we received a bit of help from St Gregory the Great himself. We found out afterwards that our inspection had apparently been scheduled for earlier in the term but Ofsted had seen from our website that we were celebrating the Feast of our Patron, St Gregory the Great and moved it. Whether or not a school has a patron saint, this illustrates that Ofsted will pick up on special/unusual events if they are publicised online. We’re currently working on our calendar of saints for every day of the school year!
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