My local authority holds LA and Link Governor forums. As I am the Training Link governor, I try and attend these forums as often as I can. At this term’s forum there was a presentation by a Chair of Governors about his experience with the new, short inspection regime. This was the first short inspection in my LA so this presentation was very useful and interesting.
This school had been judged as Good in 2011. In 2013 the school was advised that it would not be inspected at least for another 12 months. In September 2015 the GB appointed a new Headteacher. On Monday 11th January 2016 the school received a call informing them that they would have a short inspection the next day. The headteacher drew up a timetable for the day. During the first hour the head met the inspector and they went through the school data. The inspector was told about student tracking, progress, results and the changes the head was putting into place. The Chair commented that everything the inspector asked the head were things we as governors should know!
While touring the school, the inspector went into a classroom and saw children learning about pets. It was “Bring your pet to school” day and the school had decided not to cancel it. There were numerous questions on safeguarding. The inspector then went into the office to check the Single Central Record. The register is kept up to date. However, the inspector made a few suggestions to bring it in line with best practice and asked the school to add a few extra columns. One question that the inspector asked was if any of the staff had worked abroad and was the school aware of anything which may have happened while the staff member was abroad. As it happened the school does have a staff member who has recently returned to the UK. The Chair told us that the inspector didn’t make the staff member responsible for the register feel as if they had let the school down. The inspector asked them to get the required information and update the record and he would come back at the end of the day. This was done and the inspector was satisfied when he re-examined the register.
The meeting with the governors took place at lunch time; four governors met the inspector. The inspector used the information he had gathered to check the governors’ understanding of progress, results and interventions. The inspector asked about one year group which is a challenging one. He wanted to know if the governors were aware of how these students are tracked, if they were making expected progress, the interventions in place and their effects. The Chair told us he keeps an “Ofsted folder” which has information which may be needed at inspections. He said he found this very useful during the inspection as he was able to refer to it when needed. The inspector wanted to know if governors were given all the information they needed. He asked if governors were aware of the work done by the SENCO, the strategies she uses and their impact. The inspector knew that writing had been the focus during the last two inspections. The governors were asked why was writing still a priority. This question was answered by the governor responsible for monitoring this area. He told the inspector that the school had introduced a new English programme and felt that they should keep focusing on writing for the time being.
The Chair told us that student progress in his school is not as good as other schools in the borough but the governors were able to
(a) assure the inspectors that they knew this was the case and
(b) put the data into context
Governors were asked about student attendance. As this is a small school few unauthorised absences affect the data dramatically. Governors were asked what steps was the school taking to address unauthorised absences and were told that they needed to be robust in their tackling of this issue. The Chair asked if the inspector would put this in his report. The inspector said he would be commenting on attendance. The Chair told us that the governors were happy about this as the school could point to the Ofsted report when emphasising the need to attend school regularly.
Governors were asked if they knew what new initiatives had been put into place by the head and the impact these were having. The governors were asked about EYFS, if governors accessed training (the Chair had the training record with him and showed it to the inspector) and if there had been any complaints against staff. The inspector was impressed that the school, a small primary in a leafy suburb, had accessed Prevent training.
The Chair told us that judging by the questions they were asked the inspector was trying gauge if the governors and the head’s priorities and vision for the school were the same and if they questioned and challenged the head.
The school has been graded Good (the report has been made public). The Chair told us that they were satisfied with the grade as they know they are not Outstanding but will be! The Chair was happy with the new inspection regime and the inspector. He said the whole process had felt supportive and it did feel as if the inspection had started by assuming that the school continued to be Good.
The Chair ended his presentation by advising us that as governors we need to be clear about our vision for our school, accountability, safeguarding, being able to track pupil progress and financial regularity.
It was good to hear from someone who has gone through the new, short inspection and it was reassuring to hear that the experience had been a positive one.