Freedom of Information: School Inspection

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Do OfSTED inspectors re-draft handwritten notes to suit an overall inspection outcome?

On 21st May 2018 I made a Freedom of Information request to OfSTED for a copy of the evidence base for the inspection of Quintin Kynaston (URN: 137646) which took place on 18 January 2017 (n.b. the OfSTED response stated 2018, which for the sake of accuracy, is incorrect). On the 20th June 2018 (22 working days later!) I received all 145 pages of documentation from the 5 inspectors who spent two days unpicking the work of our school.

So, in the interests of the public, here is one of the 145 pages. I am blogging this first because it’s easy for me to tackle before I absorb the other 144 pages! Below you will find my evaluation of leading whole-school professional development for 220 members of staff versus one school inspector who had ‘a chat’ with me for 35 minutes. In the next instalment, I will tackle teaching and learning.

Context

In January 2017 my school received a two-day OfSTED inspection. This was after a short period when the school’s former head teacher was barred from teaching and ex-student Jihadi John was reported to be an ex-pupil. So, in short, the school had been through a very difficult national and international period of turbulence. As a consequence, the school struggled to recruit and those teachers who did work at the school were some of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with in my 25 years in teaching.

After a period of 6-months silence, you can read how I coped with the ‘special measures’ outcome. It was the most challenging and rewarding period of my career, but with a part-time request in danger and wanting to take control of my mental health, it was ‘jump or keep swimming’ 70-hours per week for several years. After resigning from my position as a deputy head teacher, It took me until April 2018 to blog openly about the impact it had made on me professionally and why I am now averse to any OfSTED rhetoric.

In this video, I speak about the risks of working in a challenging school. With no apparent ‘capacity to improve’, our recruitment challenges were made even harder; barring us from appointing any newly qualified teachers. The school had decades of history, nurturing newly qualified and Teach First to become brilliant teachers!

As a single-status academy sitting on a £300m plot of land in North Westminster, within 3 months (June 2018), the incoming MAT off-loaded various services and signed up tens and tens of teaching staff and new school leaders. Not only had the school seen a 100% turnover in its school leadership pre-2014, that at the time of writing, all my former colleagues have (bar one) since moved on. That’s another 100% turnover in school leadership in less than 12 months! There was a very strong period of middle and senior leadership stability in the school from 2014-2017.

Professional Development

Here is evidence form for professional development at the school; the first and only time I have discussed professional development in 9 inspections during, 17 years of school leadership.

‘Discussions with DHT reference CPD’

Firstly, we did not have a CPD policy, only a teaching and learning policy which took 18 months to create from the ground up. This policy has evolved into the book, Mark Plan Teach – consumed over 10,000 times in less than one year(!) and supporting other primary and secondary schools across England. This is one example of the ten-departmental diagnostic tools shown to the inspector – completed annually.

Freedom of Information OfSTED

I now advocate to the 1,000s of teachers and school leaders I meet, a teaching and learning policy is Not Statutory, so don’t set yourself up to fail.

Inconsistent: we didn’t see it …

If inspectors were attached to the long-term interests of a school, they would see a school on a good and bad day. I have also explained that leading whole-school teaching and learning for 10 years, I have yet to get work scrutiny right. It’s an impossible task to get the methodology right, which leads to all sorts of arbitrary judgements, box-ticking and no or little impact.

Freedom of Information OfSTED

Instead of mindless work scrutiny, I now advocate coaching to transcend all forms of teacher improvement.

Clear CPD pathways …

Over the last 10 years, one benefit from blogging my professional life ensures my lens is wide and that I am not isolating the work of our school – blogging has transcended our local community to have work critiqued across the world! The CPD programme was a comprehensive document – this CPD menu is just two pages – of a well-planned and coordinated professional development programme for 220 adults. You can watch our marketing video and the staff professional development video I took immense pride in producing.

Freedom of Information OfSTED

At some point in our meeting, the inspector asked me for data to demonstrate CPD engagement and uptake. Apart from having the information on Blue Sky Education – which had already been provided – I was encouraged to provide some statistics (which I made up) to test the inspection process.

Inconsistent, or just a slip of the pen?

Now, I know the overall inspection determines the final OfSTED grade and that a leadership and management grade is an evaluation of all middle and senior leaders in the school – not just me! But, call me Mr. Cynical, apart from the obvious ‘blacked out’ areas which contain personal information about individuals, why is it that the only errors or edits on this page appear to be in this section? Coincidence?

Adjustments

Let’s address each red box one at a time.

  1. “Leadership and management is good” – now replaced with “requires improvement”.
  2. “The impact of marking & feedback …. is not evident in lesson and is therefore not outstanding” – replaced with “good” outside the margin.
  3. “It is not 2 or a 3 as DHT is aware of the problems” – replaced with a 4. It is difficult to make this out clearly.
  4. “Effectiveness of leadership and management 2” – replaced with an additional curve to form a number 3.

Freedom of Information OfSTED

Evaluation

Overall, the commentary is a fair and accurate summary of what was taking place in the school at that time. Given that the school was facing some very difficult challenges; national press and working with £1m less in 2017 than it was receiving in 2014, I’d say we were in terms of teaching and learning, doing a good job with 100 teachers, despite having a 50% turnover of teaching staff in 3 years. I also know that just sharing one page of a 145 page document is unhelpful, but my point here is, ‘Do OfSTED inspectors re-draft handwritten notes to suit an overall inspection outcome?’

As for professional development? Well, I am biased. You be the judge. If you have used any of my school resources over the past 10 years, then you will know if it has made a difference to you/your school. Here is the one page of notes (unedited) from the inspector in all it’s glory.

Tune in for the other 144 pages over the next few weeks and months …

@TeacherToolkit

In 2010, Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit from a simple Twitter account through which he rapidly became the 'most followed teacher on social media in the UK'. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of being most influential in the field of education. He remains the only classroom teacher to feature to this day ... Sharing resources and ideas online as @TeacherToolkit, he has built this website (c2008) which has been described as one of the 'most influential blogs on education in the UK', winning the UK Blog Awards (2018). Read more...

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