The OFSTED inspection at Southside was carried out in July 1996 over a period of five days. At the time the school had 206 boys and girls on roll aged 7-11. As the OFSTED report mentioned, the catchment area has mainly local authority housing and 'high levels of economic and social deprivation: 54.4 per cent of pupils receive free school meals and 18 per cent live in overcrowded conditions, nearly twice the national average' (OFSTED 1996:6). The 'key indicators' in the report focused on results at Key Stage 2, and then looked at levels of attendance, number of exclusions and 'teaching quality'. Southside came bottom of the league table in its area, with 38 per cent of children achieving level 4 or above in English, 14 per cent achieving level 4 or above in mathematics and 44 per cent achieving level 4 or above in science. The main findings of the report are as follows:
Most aspects of the management of the school are sound, although there are some weaknesses…The management responsibilities of staff are not always appropriate and in some cases do not match their expertise. Staff development lacks rigour and some staff feel they lack support. There is insufficient monitoring of both teaching and the progress of individual pupils, other than those with SEN [special educational needs]…Pupils enter the school with low levels of attainment and generally make progress in acquiring basic skills. However, there is a high proportion of unsatisfactory teaching and more able pupils do not progress to the higher levels of attainment. When these facts are linked to the generous level of funding, the school gives unsatisfactory value for money.
(OFSTED 1996:4-5, emphasis added)
Following this report, an Action Plan was drawn up under the supervision of an LEA advisory team and was evaluated by the team in June 1997. I spent three weeks in Southside almost immediately after the LEA advisors had conducted their OFSTED-style evaluation of the implementation of the Action Plan (see Willmott 1999b). This LEA evaluation was initially flagged up as an informal affair, but in the event was OFSTED in style and content, much to the disbelief of the staff.