Ofsted Inspections: Understanding Their Impact and Achieving an Outstanding RatingNovember 23, 2017
Ofsted reports have become a critically divisive issue in recent years. The government’s Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services, and Skills is committed to inspecting and regulating the country’s educational institutions. Inspections are performed a minimum of once every three years, and their findings are made public for anyone (primarily parents) to follow.
While these are designed to help those weaker schools provide the quality of education expected, they have attracted more and more controversy. Teachers have experienced breakdowns due to the stress impending Ofsted inspections place upon them, and some schools have been found to stay open 24 hours a day through their desperation to prepare as best they can.
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers has called the ‘excessive monitoring’ performed by Ofsted as ‘destructive’, and blames them for the thousands of teachers retiring from the profession every year. Long-term stress has been attributed to Ofsted, while over 50 percent of new teachers are said to quit in their first five years of full-time employment with a school.
A small number of schools have also been caught taking desperate measures to avoid a low rating, such as acquiring outstanding teachers from other schools to replace weaker ones, while pupils have been said to be bribed to behave too.
This only demonstrates just how much weight Ofsted inspections carry, but why are schools so desperate?
The Worst Case Scenario
Ofsted inspectors base their reports on a school’s performance in a number of areas, including:
- Pupils’ development and well-being
- Standards and achievements
- Learning and teaching quality
- Teaching of the curriculum
- The school’s guidance, care, and support
- The leading and management of the school overall
The report’s judgements are based on a scale of four categories:
- One (Outstanding)
- Two (Good)
- Three (Satisfactory)
- Four (Inadequate)
Any school that falls into the latter ‘inadequate’ category may be classed as having ‘serious weaknesses’ or demanding ‘special measures’. In the case of the former, these special measures institutions are failing to give their pupils the expected quality of education whilst demonstrating none of the capacity required to make necessary improvements.
Serious weaknesses schools, on the other hand, are not yet providing pupils with a satisfactory standard of teaching, yet Ofsted’s inspectors believe they have the means and ability to improve. If a school is regarded as either requiring special measures or showing serious weaknesses, it will be required to become an academy by the Secretary of State for Education.
Academies will be sponsored by a chain of similar institutions experienced in running multiple schools at the same time. They will tend to have greater flexibility regarding the curriculum and other areas (term dates, hours etc.), allowing them the freedom to incorporate the changes necessary to bring it up to standard.
Special measures schools are typically provided two years to transform their quality of education, and those with serious weaknesses have just 18 months. There has been serious concern over the length of time given to schools to improve and the removal of headteachers as an attempted ‘quick-fix’.
Achieving an outstanding rating from an Ofsted inspection may well be incredibly daunting, but many schools manage to do so. How can yours be one of them?
Achieving Your Outstanding Ofsted Rating
– Planning Ahead
The first thing to do when you receive that Ofsted call is to prepare immediately. Create an action plan and hand it to your leadership team, covering such vital topics as informing staff, preparing the necessary documents, informing parents, and getting the school looking at its best.
Make sure all documents on policies and procedures are updated, and ready for inspectors to read through.
Parents may be informed via a notice on your school website, and should be encouraged to ask any questions they may have via a forum or submission form. Some may wish to inform their children as to the inspection’s importance or even offer their assistance.
– Meet the Night Before
Gather your staff the night before the Ofsted team arrives, and make sure you provide everyone with the motivation and encouragement they need. It’s vital to be positive at all times: even if you believe there may still be problem areas, reassure staff you believe they can pull together and achieve the outstanding rating.
Avoid putting too much pressure on them, or showing your own doubts. Focus on what needs to be done and suggest solutions without being too critical. Show real confidence in your team: not only will you help settle their nerves, you will also help give them more of a can-do attitude.
– Best on Show
Gather your pupils’ most amazing work and display these in key areas around the classroom and school. Demonstrate the variety and diversity of skills your pupils possess, and show how far they have come by presenting early work alongside their latest.
– Teaching Quality
Encourage your teachers to set high expectations for all of their pupils and work to bring out the best in everyone in their classes. Focus on strategies that have brought strong results in the past, and make sure that planning, assessment, and marking are as expected.
Another key aspect of teaching that should always be demonstrated: passion. Every teacher should showcase their commitment to getting the best out of their pupils, and prove why they entered the field to begin with.
– Be Welcoming
It’s easy to see the Ofsted inspectors as the enemy, but try to be as welcoming and upbeat as possible. Help them find their way through the corridors and grounds as well as you can, ensure they have somewhere to congregate, and be available to assist them.
Be sure you know the Ofsted handbook inside and out, so you can best prepare your team and pupils for the inspection.
This can be an incredibly challenging time, but don’t let the weight of the inspection crush you – do the best you can, and they will appreciate it.
Ofsted inspections may well change in approaching years as pressure continues to mount, but until they do, follow the tips above to achieve the best results you can.