21/03/2016

What a difference a day makes...

We in fact had rather less than '24 little hours' notice of last week's wonderfully successful Ofsted Inspection, with the process itself also over in a school day. I first spoke to Lead Inspector at just after 1pm last Monday, with the team arriving at 8am the following morning and leaving, secure in their confirmed judgement on the school, at 5.30 in the afternoon.

Over my career, I've experienced all forms of Ofsted Inspection, from the 'five-dayers' with several months' extended notice to the latest short inspections for Good Schools... and everything else in between! Under the system we experienced last week, if the team is satisfied that the school has at least maintained its grading from the previous Inspection, it doesn't come back for a second day.

At different times, I've 'preferred' every one of the different approaches.

Over the old five days, for example, you got to know a large team of Inspectors; to build a relationship and understanding with them so that if something went 'wrong' in a single lesson or meeting, you had both built the trust to be able to explain it in context... and also have the time to turn it round! You also had the benefit of extended preparation to get the school ready to be seen in its best possible light and staff knew that they would be observed and judged by specialists in their subject area. On the other hand, the months of waiting for the impending doom of the visit was not healthy - not for teachers, nor indeed for learning as staff would strive to manipulate the delivery of a scheme of work to ensure that they would be teaching the lessons they wanted in the appointed week!

But now I'm convinced that the latest approach is in fact the best one that we've had; and this isn't just a self-satisfied case of 'didn't we do well'! Prior to the team's arrival I was extremely sceptical that any one day inspection of a community as complex as a school could get under its skin and truly understand both the extent of its achievements and subtlety of character.

It can.

It can because the new approach is in fact test of how far the leadership of a school knows it's own school; how far it understands its achievements and character. If the inspectors agree, based on their prior evaluation of performance data and what they see on the day, they don't feel they need to know any more than that.

That's why I'm so proud of what happened last week. It was about the school community showing what it is always like. How culture and ethos has grown and developed over time. And within that I'm especially proud of how our amazing Sixth Form students conveyed it so passionately to the inspection team during their face-to-face meeting with them.

Our Head Boy and Girl volunteered to meet them. That says all that needs to be said. There's been a change of student leadership this week with the appointment of a new team. Lucas and Katherine take over from Duncan and Kate at the helm...

Senior Students

But that won't change student culture; it will continue to evolve and develop through them. A remarkable student culture reflected in incredible community fundraising and generosity of spirit reflected so brilliantly in last Friday's totally student-inspired activities for Autism Awareness Week...

Autism Awareness Week
Autism Awareness Week
Autism Awareness Week

So actually it not about one day; it's about every day.











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