15 Tips For Surviving Ofsted

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Paul Ainsworth

Paul has been writing for the Teacher Toolkit website since 2012 and is the author of 'No Silver Bullets: Day in, day out school improvement'. He is a system leader supporting primary schools, secondary schools and MATs currently with with Infinity Academies Trust as Education...
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How can you ‘survive’ an Ofsted inspection?

In less than three years I have helped teachers and leaders prepare and tackle almost 20 Ofsted inspections. I have been there the night before as teachers have determinedly worked till late trying to show their school in the best light. At the end of the ordeal, I have joined in celebrations and sadly helped pick up the pieces when things have not gone as we had hoped.

Teachers often speak to me the day before, asking for my tips, what do they really need to do? Equally I spend considerable time before and during inspections, reassuring teachers and giving little suggestions of how they can use their time most effectively.

The following 15 points are gathered from these many different conversations and experiences so you can learn what I have without all the grey hairs.

The weeks before….

1. Make your own Ofsted calculations

I have seen too many senior leaders keep their staff in an Ofsted frenzy awaiting an inspection so why not make your own predictions of when Ofsted could visit.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Inadequate schools should have a section 5 within 18 months of the last inspection
  • Require Improvement (RI) schools should be inspected two years from the section 5
  • Schools that academise which are not outstanding should be inspected three years from conversion
  • Good schools should be inspected approximately every three years. If the inspector thinks the school has declined or improved there will be a second inspection in one to two years
  • Outstanding schools which are not exempt such as special schools should be inspected every three years
  • Outstanding schools which have a significant change such as the addition of a key stage will be inspected

Look at local inspections too and see what the their time scale was. Last year I pencilled in Ofsted fortnights for my schools and was spookily spot on with some.

2. Create your own Ofsted preparation plan

Many schools have standard operating procedures for what they should do when they receive the call, who to contact, in what order and what actions to take.

Why not do create your own from a personal perspective? Think if your school received an Ofsted call tomorrow, what issues would you face and what order would you tackle them in?

3. Lesson planning

Inspectors do not expect to see planning in a particular format. Yet it is almost ingrained that as soon as we know we are being inspected we try and plan lessons to the nth degree, sometimes using proformas we would never normally use.

Ensure that you are well versed in your own planning system. (You may use the 5 minute lesson plan) Then when you are trying to plan your lessons for the following day, you can do it speedily and efficiently.

4. Class data files

Ensure that you keep your data file regularly updated so this does not take additional time when you receive the call. If you are a middle leader ensure you keep your files updated on the areas you lead.

5. Survival kits

Keep an Ofsted ‘survival kit’ in your car with a good supply of snacks and nice drinks so that if you get the call, you don’t have to be trying to get to the supermarket.

The day before….

6. Save energy

Try not to stay too long at school the night before an inspection. It worries me when I see teachers working late into the night, the day before, as I want them to have energy over the following two days.

7. Last check on work scrutiny samples

Some schools will have already planned which children’s books will be part of the work sample. If you know which of your children will fall into this group, have a quick look that these are marked completely up to-date.

8. Quick tidy up

Unfortunately everyone makes snap judgements so if your classroom is untidy, an inspector could believe that your teaching is not as effective as you would hope.

Now is not the time for a spring clean as you have limited time, but you could do a scoop of surfaces into a box, which you can then put in a cupboard or even your car.

9. Organise child care

Call in favours for childcare so that you are not worrying about being home at a certain time or risking not being on time in the morning. This is not the time for a traffic problem to make you late for your children or school.

During the inspection….

10. Exercise books

If you have exercise books out in your classroom, then an inspector is likely to look at them. If you do not want them to be scrutinised, put them in a cupboard.

11. Seating plans

Inspectors sit next to the child on their own and we have a habit of seating our most challenging children alone. Is this the child you want the inspector to ask what they’re learning and how do they know if they’ve achieved it? So why not manipulate your seating plan so one of your more eloquent pupils has a space next to them.

12. Stick to your strengths

Now is not the time to trial a new teaching technique or present concepts differently to how the children are used to. Instead believe in yourself and teach in your normal effective style.

13. Inspector feedback is minimal

Do not expect too much from feedback. Now lessons are not individually graded, feedback is very general. You may consider that it is not really worth the wait to see an inspector and wish to get on with the rest of you day and thinking about tomorrow.

14. Day-by-day, week-by-week is key

Remember even though an inspection is an intense few days, inspectors are trying to make a judgement on what is happening in the school regularly. It is the work in the books, day-by-day and week-by-week that really makes the difference, not a one off lesson.

15. And breathe…

Ofsted visits come and go and life carries on. You may not find out the result of the inspection for several weeks so do not live your life on hold. Instead find something nice to do and give yourself a reward for surviving the process.

Above all relax and do your best. And do get in touch and let us know how your last inspection went.

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