An Inspector Calls; Personal Ofsted experience matters

Well, it was our turn! As you all know it isn’t one Inspector who calls. They hunt in packs, or, in our case, four to be exact !

We had undergone quite a major change at our school. Following the resignation and departure of the Head in December we appointed an Interim and, subsequently, successfully appointed to the substantive post. Our last inspection was in 2010 before we converted to academy status. So, the fact that we had a new headteacher and had not been inspected since conversion meant an inspection may be on the cards, possibly sooner rather than later. Both I (Vice Chair) and the Chair, Steve, have been in post for less than a full academic year so there we were, relatively newbies with a new headteacher awaiting the inevitable. I had been preparing for an inspection for some time. I had started to put together a document which lists questions other governors have been asked during their inspection. For this I am very grateful to all who have contributed to the document.

The headteacher received the Wednesday morning call informing her of the inspection and wheels were set in motion. In the past I had always wondered how I would feel when the call came. When it eventually came I was surprisingly quite calm. There was work to be done to prepare for the inspection. We had a GB meeting scheduled to take place on Thursday which, bearing in mind the additional workload and stress for the whole school leadership, we decided to postpone.

Our GB papers are on our virtual office. For the convenience of the Inspectors we went into school and collated a file containing hard copies of the latest meeting pack for each committee and papers for the GB meetings for one year.

I then went home, had dinner and read over our papers including our student data and data about our pupil premium and SEN students. I put together a document about the work of the GB over the last year and the impact it had had. While reading through this I realised I didn’t know as much as I should about our staff CPD. I rang Jo, who is an NLG and a fellow governor and a very dear friend (and my twin, but that’s another post!) and asked her about this as she had attended a staff CPD enquiry group. She put together a paper and emailed it to me. I had now done all the preparation I could so I went to bed (and slept well, as it happens!).

We were scheduled to meet the inspectors at 10:00 on Friday. We went to school slightly early and met the head who told us that everything was going as well as could be expected. She had told the inspectors that as the new head she had been working with the GB and had got to know the governors and especially Steve and I well. She told them although we get along very well, we still ask questions and expect to be provided information. As I said earlier we had had a GB meeting scheduled for Thursday which we had cancelled. Steve and I had been going through our RASEonline and had some questions. We both are of the opinion that challenge and holding to account means asking for information so we know how our students are performing but that doesn’t mean trying to “catch the head out”! We had therefore given our head a list of questions we were going to ask her at the GB meeting. She told us that during her chat with the inspectors she showed them that list and told them that her Chair and VC had asked her to have the information ready for the GB meeting. This was a real stroke of luck for us! The questions we had weren’t headline questions but were those which showed the inspectors that we had read and understood our RAISEonline data.

We met with the Lead Inspector and the Additional Inspector. The first question we were asked was, “How well is the school doing and how do you know?” Well, we knew the answer to that! We were able to quote facts and figures from RAISEonline and had also discussed variation in the performance of ethnic group students, subject variation, performance of students receiving pupil premium and our SEN students. We were asked about the Trust and how many Members were there. I suppose this is the “Inspectors should make sure they talk to the right people” bit! We talked budgets, performance management and how we went about recruiting the head. As a GB we were aware that we needed to improve our provision of information going to the parents and we talked through with the Inspectors how we envisaged rectifying this and also publishing minutes on the school website. This was appreciated by them. When we had gone in we were told that we would have approximately 30 minutes but we took longer than that. We left the room feeling that we had said what we wanted to.

We returned later in the afternoon for the feedback from the Inspectors. Needless to say we were very happy with the judgement. We received the draft report and then the final report. The head had arranged to speak to the staff after school and invited Steve and I too. Steve was away on business so I went along. The Head read out the judgement and then some comments from the report to great applause! I congratulated the staff and said that I was sure that the Inspectors had not seen anything on those two days that they wouldn’t see on any other day. I also said that I knew that when their students reached their targets they were set higher, aspirational targets and in the same way the GB and the staff will not rest on our laurels.

I’m going to end with few quotes from the report about our students as they are the most important factor in the equation.

“Students are enthusiastic and curious learners, resulting in an exceptionally positive learning atmosphere across the whole school. They work together extremely well, and learning is enhanced by the maturity of their discussions which deepens their understanding.”

“Students’ behaviour in lessons and around the school is impeccable which makes learning and socialising together very enjoyable.”

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