Home > Columns, Ofsted, Section 5 > The week that Ofsted came…

The week that Ofsted came…

As a school we had been expecting a visit all year. Hit massively by the AQA debacle last summer our results had unfairly tanked. A pupil from year 11 robbed of his opportunity of an NHS apprenticeship made national news and despite remarks moving the school out of the National Challenge bracket our school dashboard told a woeful picture. At no point all year did we settle that this was an accurate picture of the school and since the start of the year we knew to gear up for a inspection which really was going to be us v them. Or so we thought…

This year a key priority this year has been at least 3 levels of progress for all students. To highlight, where appropriate and pupils are capable of more they have been pushed further. We have worked to “narrow the gap” for pupils underneath their target and still continued to push the most able.

Every member of our staff new key headlines from our Achievement and Attainment 2012, from our School dashboard and areas of strength from the RaiseOnline report. Every member of staff was able to talk about this in the context of their role both in and outside of their classroom, departments and pastoral teams.

We didn’t have a meeting specifically on this at any point. It was spoken about in meetings all year when it was relevant and where it had provoked our response.

Two weeks ago another school in the local area offered representatives of their senior leadership to come and talk to staff. Three meetings were hastily arranged for the Tuesday following their inspection. It was our turn to receive the baton.

Share your experiences.

There were plenty of messages from those meetings, many of which are repeated later in this post from my own experiences but a flavour of some at the time that struck me were things like:

  • Differentiation by method, delivery and appropriate challenge, not by outcome
  • Fully utilise opportunities for literacy and/or numeracy
  • Knowing the positive pictures your data demonstrates with an emphasis on your current data for Summer 2013.
  • Be aware of the extent inspectors will talk to pupils to get impressions of the school “over time”
  • Within one hour of arriving at a local school all but one inspector was in a classroom. The classroom judgements matter. The picture of individual grades averaged out obviously wield influence but also the little things like pupils using displays, routines, behaviour for learning.

So Tuesday started like any other day. Normal lessons planned. House viewings arranged. Preparation for a meeting that day completed the night before with a colleague. Lesson 3 that day a planned mock-sted style meeting with the School Improvement Partner, myself and three other staff identified as having driven elements of Teaching and Learning, had been arranged in order to aid preparation for the impending inspection, but also to inform our SIP over how the Teaching and Learning infrastructure worked. This meeting proved to be a lynch pin of what was to follow as feedback was shared to all members of staff involved in meeting the inspectors.

Rehearse key meetings to ensure you present the positive pictures of the less obvious, less tangible parts of your school.

On leaving the meeting feeling positive, having learnt a lot and looking happily at 2 hours of Year 11 gained time I casually strode into a colleagues classroom to apologise for being late to a meeting with her in order to arrange a resource for our OTP session Thursday. Completely dead pan she turned her head and whispered quietly “Well I don’t think we’ll be going now, as we’ve had the call.”

Have a go plan. Myself and a colleague had already put together our go plan for the day the call came. I immediately went to see my department in order to ensure they knew, had my phone number and had a chance to arrange planning time.

One member of my PA team is a PE teacher and was out on the field teaching. I went to see her to tell her. It made me realise that not all staff are right next to their email, or have mobile devices to receive such news. I didn’t want her or any of the PE department walking in 40 mins behind anyone else into the middle of a flurry. As it turned out it was near the end of the lesson anyway and we had some quick discussion as the pupils walked in to change.

As a pro-active middle leader I had an idea what my evening was going to look like, however little idea of where I would be when. Therefore I checked all department members had my phone number so if they wanted to run something by me they could. I ensured I arranged a time after school for some face to face discussions around planning and reiterated the school lesson obs checklist to each teacher to see if there was anything missing, or anything they may need help putting together.

Once I’d seen my department I went to Reprographics to check in with them. It’s easy to forget the ramp up doesn’t just hit teaching staff. Equally it was important to ensure any member of staff with a name badge that was half dog chewed or slightly stained had the opportunity to receive a new one. From a safeguarding perspective we ensure all members of staff have photo ID school name badges on at all times. It was crucial to check everyone had one.

Have your evidence ready to go.

We knew as a school what evidence we wanted to present in order to showcase our school realistically and positively. I know that may sound a bit oxymoronic but we know our strengths and areas for development. We wanted to show we have clear SE practises to identify and measure our improvement but we also want to showcase the story the dashboard cruelly ignores. There was no delay in sending off our School Self Evaluation Summary to the Lead Inspector and there was no confusion over what needed pulling together for the inspectors room. It already existed, even if it wasn’t all in one location.

The inspectors were very impressed that every department had it’s own SEF. 3/4 examples were made available to the inspectors to look through. They at no point took what we were saying as red. They looked to triangulate their judgements from what was evidenced, what was seen in the classrooms and what they saw out in the wider field of school life. We did not have it easy. They checked that our evaluations were where we actually were as a school and pushed for next steps.

A key part, for us, was that all documentation was ready to go, there was no quick scurrying off and fabricating a report. In essence the evidence supported where we were as a school, not as a sell, but it matched what they saw and the judgements they themselves made.

Lessons are so much more than a singular grade

Lessons are more than just learning experiences. They are opportunities to showcase Behaviour and Safety and contribute to “over time” judgements that contribute to the effectiveness of Leadership and Management.

Routines are the best and easiest way of showing that this is what always happens. In my observation feedback the inspector stated her impression of my behaviour management and the department ethos was shown in how the pupils arrived, put their bags and coats in a specific part of the room, took out their pens and planners and placed them in a specific part of the room and came a sat in a circle without having to be told anything more than “right – let’s go, start as normal.”

Progress over time

From feedback from my own observation and those shared by colleagues it became apparent that impressions were taken to inform an over time grade.

One teacher received feedback that there all/most and some LOs were about quantity of task rather than amount of challenge. It seemed examples of differentiation by outcome immediately capped the teaching and learning judgement for over time. It left the wrong and sometimes inaccurate impression.

Inspectors seemed to have particularly been excited by differentiation by delivery. Allowing top end pupils the challenge of tackling the work with minimum teacher input, whilst those needing more support to “narrow the gap” in terms of their progress towards the targets they were under achieving on received more teacher support. This by no means meant the higher ability were left untaught. They however deepened their independent skills through learning a different way. Their levels descriptors require them to create solutions and evaluate practices, skills they need to practice from hands on experience of DOING rather than copying. Lower ability pupils needed more repetitive modelling and got it. High ability pupils were not forgotten, just were given opportunities to be more responsible for picking up misconceptions themselves.

I also want to emphasise this in the context of singular lessons. Rather obviously this cannot constitute the whole curriculum experience for higher ability kids. Just an opportunity grabbed where appropriate.

A work scrutiny was called on the second day to match examples of practice seen on the first in terms of the quality of marking and feedback overtime. The teaching and learning grade is no longer based solely on the lessons seen in that specific context at that specific moment.

Inspectors took examples of planning offered in lessons with them when they left. This was to help place the 25-30 minutes of the lesson seen in context of the one hour lesson but also to be shown to other inspectors to triangulate if the quality of planning was representative of the school.

Inspectors looked at the data sheets to inform the overall teaching and learning judgement. If pupils were not making enough progress towards their target then this would influence the judgement. We fortunately had a 4i’s sheet that gave information and intervention details for pupils below target. This was very well received.

The school had three minimum requirements for all teachers and all lessons

  • A lesson plan (5 min lesson plan or alternative. This was left up to staff to choose how they format their planning)
  • A 4i’s sheet. Identifying pupils from data who require an Intervention. Information about the pupils and an expectation around the Impact the intervention will have. Identification, Information, Intervention, Impact
  • The data context sheet. Centrally produced once a term with Reading Ages, Cohort coding and subject specific data over the year.

As blogged by @huntingenglish today http://huntingenglish.wordpress.com/2013/04/28/the-ofsted-uncertainty-principle-and-holding-steady/, inspectors did not want to see constant measure of progress.

A clear message from feedback to myself and colleagues was that Assessment for learning is when teachers take a measure of learning and utilise that information to inform the planning of their immediate actions, correct misconceptions and influence their future actions. Assessment for learning does not demonstrate progress if every 5 minutes pupils have to stop progressing in order to measure it. This seems to be a shift for inspectors as now showcase lessons “for the inspector” are viewed dimly. My feedback specifically mentioned this point as I was complimented for avoiding this and delivering a lesson that could “have so easily gone wrong however it is clear it is what you always do because they pupils were so used to it.”

Everyone makes a contribution beyond their grade

Not everyone of course is observed during an inspection but it is easy to become obsessed by a grade. However due the nature of our school site and BSF just nearing completion (but without signage pointing you to different classrooms. We don’t even have numbers on doors yet!) pupils delivered the inspection team from one lesson to the next. During this pupils were politely and kindly interrogated over their opinions, thoughts and impressions of the school. The influence staff members have had on these impressions are less tangible but just as important a contribution.

The meetings with inspectors of Newly Qualified Teachers, Middle Leaders and key Senior Leadership groups successfully showed all staff have been following the journey dictated by our key school priorities. All groups spoke about identifying Pupil Premium Pupils and their provision, the interventions put in place for key cohorts, the leadership and management of implementing our School Improvement Plan. All groups spoke the same message because this sis truly what we are all working to and this showed very clearly that what we said we were doing, we were doing.

Finally, and most importantly stay nimble.

The inspection team we had wanted to hear about what we were doing to improve they school. They offered the opportunity to present evidence that may have been missed. They wanted us to go to them with things we felt they may be missing. They were in essence, thoroughly reasonable. You never know with a section 5 who may need your support when so build into your days time to sit in the staff room and talk to people, I found out about so many people who needed something from sitting and talking. We were all able to chip in with other people’s experience of the two days by constant communication over email, text and face to face.

Present solutions. In my meeting with an inspector we demonstrated an area for development and demonstrated we already had a plan ready to go in September to help move things forward. This was very well received.

I will be blogging more about my specific experiences over the next week or so. It was tiring, exhilarating and everything in between. If its you next week. Good luck!

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Categories: Columns, Ofsted, Section 5
  1. June 9, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    So helpful- thanks. As a relatively new head of dept I am trying to get over the feeling that I need to do everything before they come. I’m trying to figure out how I best show what I am working on that as a lone dept I just haven’t been able to do yet. Project 1 was behaviour!! Any hints?

    • June 9, 2013 at 4:30 pm

      Have a clear action plan. Set it out with a priority for each month. Set it out as a table with action, impact, evidence. For behaviour list the things you have done in the action column, for impact write what you can now see in the department compared to before and for evidence write in senior leader observations, staff survey, pupil voice etc and make sure you have a folder of evidence. This shows your journey.

      You can’t have everything but you can show you know you’ve got “everything” to do!

  2. June 9, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  3. June 12, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    Thanks, I’ll give this a go!

  4. Rachel
    October 23, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    This is really good and I will be sharing this with members of staff at school. Is it possible to see a copy of your 4i sheet? It sounds interesting and the only thing we seem to be missing from our pack of stuff for the inspector in lessons.

  1. June 9, 2013 at 6:44 pm

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