Preparing for the Ofsted Visits: Random Thoughts

3 Jan

The words, “Ofsted will be visiting” tend to strike fear in the hearts of professionals – especially headteachers – to the point of transfixion.  Accordingly, well before any impending visit, it would be good for school leaders (including governors) and teachers to develop mind-sets that take such visits in their strides.   The headteacher is the key person who establishes the tone for creating these mindsets. But to do so, she/he must first engage in a type of thinking and action planning that is simple and practical.   Here are a few random thoughts (thanks to Geoff Barton, a secondary headteacher) for the headteacher to get the grey cells functioning.

(1)        Do what you can before the inspection notice arrives.  Ensure you have ready and published your documents, such as the School Development Plan, Self-Evaluation Form (SEF) and on-line information about the curriculum and Pupil Premium, in place.

(2)        Set out the sequence of actions you must take when the call comes – such as at 2.05 p.m. talk to the chair of governors and clerk to the governors and 6.00 p.m. walk through the school with the caretaker.

(3)        Once you know that inspectors are visiting the following day, get the leadership team together and inform them of the news.   They should be ready to slip into their roles to enable a new, urgent routine to kick in.

Hold an end-of-day meeting with staff and go through, as calmly as possible, what you know of the inspection team and the flavour of the conversation you had with the lead inspector.  Remind staff that it is no longer about 20 minutes of cabaret performances. Rather, it is about consistency (in teaching and learning) and high expectations of pupils.

(4)        Satisfy yourself that teachers are making their rooms tidy, functional and fetching, that marking guidelines are visible, books are up-to-date and displays represent high expectations.  Order refreshments/takeaways such as kebabs and pizzas for staff members who want to stay late prior to and on the first day of the inspection.  However, set a deadline when all go home and tell them to stop fretting.

(5)        Write a brief letter to the lead inspector and her/his team welcoming them to  your school, setting out in syllables of one and briefly what kind of school they are inspecting, what it stands for and what you hope the inspectors will take time to notice and celebrate. Leave the letter in the inspection room with a small file of key documents they expect to see, e.g. the SDP, specific action plans and the SEF.

On a notice-board, ensure that there are plenty of leaflets and pictures showcasing everything about which you feel proud such as impending concerts, newspaper articles and celebrations of past and present student achievements.

(6)        Finally, keep your nerve, smile – a lot – and be the visible presence in your school that staff, pupils and parents expect – support everyone in the school community. This is what the headteacher’s role is meant to be – leading the team and modelling values that matter.

Governors – especially the Chair and Vice Chair – in turn, need to be cognisant of the overarching objectives in the school development plan (SDP) and a summary of information contained in the self-evaluation form (SEF) – including data on the progress and achievements of the pupils.  Governors should also make strenuous efforts to be there for the headteacher and attend interviews with inspectors when requested.

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