Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

How To

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

How To

Article excerpt

Take courage and take charge of enabling your staff to do their best

our school was overdue a visit from Ofsted. The school had last been inspected two years earlier and graded "requires improvement". After months of sharing ideas, change and new staff coming on board - including me - the school was ready. It was my very first inspection as a headteacher. So, what did I learn about how fledgling heads should approach their first visit from Ofsted?

Lesson 1 The call will come when you least expect it

It was Monday morning and a subset of the senior leadership team were meeting to discuss our route forward. We were challenging each other's ideas and our approaches to maximising the progress of different groups of pupils - one of our current missions. Then there came a knock at the door - a transferred phone call and we had been officially told: Ofsted would be visiting for a two-day section 5 inspection.

Lesson 2 Be prepared

I had ensured that my "in case of emergency" pack was ready. It consisted of help sheets for each staff role in the form of a set of steps (success criteria, in a way). We felt that if each staff member had contributed to creating this, and had it to hand, it would support a focused approach to our preparations for Ofsted's visit.

When in need, we simply had to refer back to our help sheets to see where we were up to. These were really useful for structuring our conversations and keeping them short. We knew when it was the right time to leave school that night. There was no infinite task list and no staff ended up staying until sunrise because, "We have to be ready for Ofsted tomorrow."

Lesson 3 Trust your instincts

After the initial call with an Ofsted inspection coordinator, I was phoned by the local authority - who were lovely and very helpful. I refused an offer of consultant support. In my experience, an influx of new ideas or faces can do little to aid staff members. If there are any wobbles, this is your opportunity to lead, support and guide. In other words, a perfect chance to use the very skills that you were excited about developing when you applied for the post.

Lesson 4 Be positive

In the initial phone conversation with the lead inspector, they asked: "How much, or not, would you like to be involved in the inspection?" After a millisecond of hesitation, I responded confidently with, "I would like to be involved as fully as possible." This determination stayed with me from that point until the inspectors left.

After the call, I gathered together the timetables from each class, rounded off a sentence or two in our self-evaluation framework (SEF), and emailed these across to the lead inspector. I then focused solely on positively supporting our teachers until we closed the school at approximately 9pm. This mainly consisted of visiting all the teachers, checking their progress towards readiness, supporting planning ideas and reassuring everyone that we were ready for what the next two days had in store.

Lesson 5 Empower discussion

The inspectors arrived promptly at 8am for an 8.20am greeting to staff. I decided to based the inspectors in my office - it's set up for professional meetings and other spaces in the school are purposefully crafted not to feel "business-like". The inspectors were surprised that I gave up my office, but I insisted, and it ensured that I stayed actively mobile throughout the two days. It also empowered me in the meetings that I had with the inspectors. My office is a very comfortable space for me to talk about our school, and the room - which had things easily to hand - gave me strength when I was challenged on any issues that the inspectors wanted more information on. …

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