This is an experience of an Ofsted inspection, written by a Year 2 Class teacher and key stage leader with SLT responsibility for curriculum, assessment, English and SMSC; working in a primary school in the North West. The inspection was carried out on the 22–23 October 2014.
So, the call came at 12.20pm. Long overdue – our last Inspection was on 19th October 2009. The headteacher talked on the phone, full of energy! The Deputy and myself paced the corridor outside her office door. Staff were already gathering in the staff room. And so the countdown began and the afternoon passed in a blur. By 5pm I had a mini melt down; this lasted for 5 minutes, but I felt better and then the adrenalin kicked in. Home by 8pm, bed at 11.30pm. Tossed and turned, trying to get the ‘big O’ out of my mind; slept a little and was up and out just after 6am!
We met the Inspection team along with my headteacher and deputy in her office. We ran through the day before a whole staff briefing at 8.40am. The inspectors had a tour of the school by the Chair of Governors. Then they came to class – my 1st observation – for guided reading half hour at 9am. I spent the rest of the morning waiting for the door to open again, it never did. The headteacher was observing with the key stage 2 lead.
At lunchtime they met with the school council. I made sure they were okay and ready for pupil interviews. The feedback was that the students were superb and very honest! I had feedback at lunch. (Avoidance of terminology and gradings.) I spent the afternoon out of class formulating and re-calculating data analysis for APS (Average Point Scores) for year 2 and year 6 for certain different groups. I presented to lead inspector. At 4pm we met with lead inspector again with our maths subject leader. The first question was; “describe your school …”
I wondered if this was a trick question!
Photo Credit: JustGrimes
“How have you planned and adapted for the new curriculum?” said the lead inspector.
And so the inquisition continued …
A team meting followed with the headteacher, deputy and the 3 inspectors to summaries what inspectors had been doing and what they had found during day 1. The EYFS Inspector was only in for one day so gave us her judgement which would be further validated by the lead inspector on Day 2. The lead asked us to provide a few things for day 2 to support our achievement judgement e.g. evidence of intervention for pupil premium students and their results. Overall, staff felt that it was going well and all had been observed in a range of lessons except for one. This teacher felt left out! All had good or above feedback, and not in so many words. The team were actually very pleasant.
I’m in at the crack of dawn again. I was just settling in to start further data analysis when I then had to meet with lead inspector along with the headteacher at 7.45am. He had spent the evening poring over Raise Online and school data. He put his hand up and simply said; “No more data!”
The overview for day 2 was inspectors in more lessons. They requested to see a key stage one ‘O’ English lesson – so I was observed by a second inspector for a full hour. The lesson went really well! Lunchtime – one more hour spent with the 2nd inspector going through key stage one books. This was the first time that I had really felt under pressure. Proving evidence of progress over time. They looked at last year’s books which we were about to send home at half term.
At 2pm, the final team meeting with two inspectors, the headteacher and the deputy. Our legs were shaking under the table! And so de-brief began. The inspectors simply worked through each section and presented what they had found to support their decisions. We didn’t tick off every criteria – it’s a best fit.
He began with overall quality of Leadership and Management within the Outstanding section. To summarise, he referred to the team as ‘unrelenting in our pursuit of excellence’ with a strong vision. How proud I felt that all our hard work had paid off! He recognised that the journey had not always been an easy one, and that some tough decisions had had to be made along the way. He said that the SMSC development of the pupils was an outstanding feature of the school and we were thrilled that the work I had developed on this was evident. He said all through school, including student attitudes, work, displays … And that our new challenging, sophisticated curriculum is a strong feature. I highlighted all the sections in the Outstanding!
Behaviour and Safety: stated that our pupils had been absolutely superb. Their knowledge of the curriculum was, “like nothing I have encountered before; their enthusiasm to learn is outstanding.”
Quality of Teaching and Learning: he summarised that work is challenging, engaging and consistent across school. Teachers used AfL and challenge to lead the learning forward. I know that there has been a large debates on Twitter regarding amount of marking expected of teachers. I feel we have it right and clearly they thought so too. He praised the relationship between staff and all support staff who work superbly together, and incredibly hard, holding high expectations for all students and of each other. All feedback to us from staff had indicated that teaching was outstanding (in not so many words!) and yes, another outstanding grade was awarded. He had seen a range of lessons, taught in a range of ways. By this time, the deputy’s bottom lip was beginning to quiver; the headteacher’s face was becoming a little flushed and I just kept fiddling with my shoes on and off under the table! We secretly glanced at each other thinking; “Is this going to be straight one?!”
Achievement: the lead discussed that the Inspectors had looked at a range of students’ work across the curriculum, including over time from last year’s evidence books. In addition to looking at our schools data pack, summers Raise Online and the LA draft Autumn data pack, he said that an important feature of our school was that students read widely and often in all subjects. Students showed a joy for reading and understood its purpose. He judged progress to be substantial and sustained throughout year groups across subjects with pockets of a very tiny minority which were being addressed (as a result of previous staffing issues).
Four areas out of four …
You could hear a pin drop, then this was followed with a few quiet sniffs and sobs from the deputy!
Photo Credit: Nemertes
The lead went through the Overall Effectiveness of the School and was very delighted to inform us that, in his opinion, we were an Outstanding school! He congratulated us and told us that we had done so well, especially to achieve this grade under the new framework. We left the inspectors for five minutes and had a few moments to breathe and try and take it all in. We then met with the governors for the inspectors to debrief them. They were so thrilled.
Obviously staff wanted to know the judgement, but the headteacher was not allowed to reveal this, so we informed staff that it had gone very well. We had half term before the draft report came out. Indeed, we were in an Outstanding school. It took another week for the final version to be released. What a pleasure it was to see all the delighted faces of the staff when the headteacher handed out copies of the report. The celebrations and local press were wonderful …
- Stay calm and believe in yourself. You are allowed a mini meltdown but then dust yourself off and carry on.
- Try and keep on top of your classroom . Make yourself a classroom check-list (we have one as a whole school) and keep your eye on it.
- Your classroom should be a reflection of your students. Make sure you have their writing up around your room and that your displays are lively and stimulating.
- If you have a class library, make sure that it is tidy and that the children want to read the books in there. Try to display them forward facing and have bright reading posters up too.
- If you have class groups, make sure that these are clear on your tables – I use these.
- Stick to the same usual format that you use daily. Don’t change that.
- Inspectors did not view lesson plans, or any teaching files and class data.
- Do not stay up all night. You need rest even if you cannot sleep. You will catch some shut-eye if only briefly and every little helps.
- Make sure all support staff know every child and each plan. The Inspector quickly picked up that I had a new TA in class.
- Greet your Inspection team with a warm smile at all times, and don’t avoid eye contact!
- When you do get the call, debrief your students. They may well be used to visitors, but some of my year 2s can occasionally be distracted by the guest in the room.
- Revisit your SEF – does it sell your school? Is it accurate? Do you have evidence to back up your judgements. We found that the Inspectors went with our judgements then sought evidence to support this. Of course, they questioned and challenged us but we had the answers. Do not undersell yourself as they will go with your SEF. If you say that your L+M is good, as long as they find the evidence to support this, then that will be your judgement. Why not push for outstanding?
- Know your stuff and be prepared! If you are a subject leader, know how you have changed the curriculum, your data – you can have your file with you and keep referring to it. You can’t know all the data for all pupils. I had loads of post it notes sticking out of mine. If you do not know the answer there and then, say that you will find the answer and get back to him/her.
- Parentview – we were disappointed in the number of results and some of the results. Send out paper copies, offer rewards for the students who return them – house points, raffle tickets etc. They glanced briefly at Parent View but mainly took into account the paper summaries.
- Book Scrutinies – have these filed under students work within the framework.
- If you have a small car park, reserve some spaces for the inspectors, or discuss travel arrangements beforehand.
- Provide plenty of water, tea/coffee/fruit/biscuits!
Do read the Outstanding indicators written by @MaryMyatt.
@TeacherToolkit footnotes: At no time should inspectors grade individual lessons. This has been stated categorically in Ofsted publication.
Mike Cladingbowl has specifically requested that rogue inspectors are reported.
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