How we’re preparing for Ofsted this term: case studies from two Senior Leaders

Maddie Kilminster - 3 November, 2020

Category : Blog

How we’re preparing for Ofsted this term: case studies from two Senior Leaders

We spoke to two Senior Leaders in a primary and secondary school about the biggest challenges they’re facing this term, and how they’re feeling about potential Ofsted inspections. To find out some of the questions Ofsted have been asking this term and how Arbor MIS can help you prepare, check out our blog. Martyn Essery,

We spoke to two Senior Leaders in a primary and secondary school about the biggest challenges they’re facing this term, and how they’re feeling about potential Ofsted inspections.

To find out some of the questions Ofsted have been asking this term and how Arbor MIS can help you prepare, check out our blog.

Martyn Essery, Chief Operating Officer at The Reach Free School

1. What are some of the biggest challenges your staff are facing this term?

The changes to the “zoning” of students has required a change of perspective for some Teachers who have cultivated their own classrooms over the years, but the biggest challenge now is keeping on top of staff and student absence, and seeking to offer the best remote learning experience for those who are not in school.

2. What are your strategies for getting your students “back on track” after lockdown?

We have deliberately avoided using language around “catching up” and “filling gaps” in order to get students back to school. Instead we reconnected with the physical space and daily social interactions without causing unnecessary mental burdens in relation to the time missed between March and July. We are making use of the excellent guidance from the Education Endowment Foundation – we are in the fortunate position that much of the back-to-school guidance chimes with initiatives we already had in place, such as targeted academic support.

3. Are you concerned at all about Ofsted inspections?

No, but I hope they are being carried out as a means to fact-find and share best practice around how schools are approaching this unique challenge.

4. How will you be preparing for an inspection?

We do not implement processes or add requirements specifically in relation to a planned or unplanned inspection, so we will continue to ensure that our systems are working effectively – supporting our students to learn and enjoy their learning, and giving us the data we require to analyse and intervene where required.

5. How has Arbor helped you prepare for inspections in the past?

The quick access to a wide variety of data in relation to students, staff, attendance and behaviour has meant that drawing up overviews and headlines has been very straightforward. But, as mentioned above, rather than it being useful specifically for an inspection, it is the way in which we have been able to integrate Arbor into all of the day-to-day routines which makes it so useful in relation to feeling prepared and on top of what is going on in school. 

The close tracking of behaviour, with clear workflows and follow-ups in order to ensure nothing slips through the gaps, has contributed to behaviour in our school being both high quality and consistently managed. 

With custom reports and Live Feeds, individuals can create bespoke reports which monitor the data relevant to them – this has been utilised in relation to absence and punctuality in recent weeks. 

Finally, we have been able to manage a changing landscape related to timetables and when students are required to be at school thanks to the way the programmes are set up in Arbor.

Anthony David, Executive Headteacher Monken Hadley & St Paul’s Primaries

1. What are some of the biggest challenges your staff are facing this term?

At the moment, it feels like we’re dancing on the tightest of tightropes. I’ve never known Teachers to work such long hours, and students are now having to make seven steps rather than five just to meet expectations. 

This next six months will be the most complicated stage of the current crisis. In some ways, last term’s lockdown was quite straightforward – we had 10-15% of our students in school and the rest we provided remote support to. But the current period is a sort of “halfway house” – we’re not fully open nor closed. The Government’s covid-related illness codes give the false impression that there is a high attendance nationally, whereas in reality the codes mark students as present. One of our schools is currently struggling to reach 90% attendance when Covid-19 registration codes are taken into consideration. 

However, I’m pleased to say that behaviour so far has been very good – you can sense students feel the joy of being back to school.

2. What are your strategies for getting your students “back on track” after lockdown?

Since the beginning of term, we’ve taken the opportunity to reset. Everything we are doing has been adapted to the Covid-19 situation. This has often meant we’ve had to re-evaluate what we do and why we do it. For example, we’ve re-launched our school curriculum which has gone down well. 

3. Are you concerned at all about Ofsted inspections?

It’s uncertain when and what the visits will look like. Under the current framework, core subject leadership is the most challenging area. Until recently, it was only senior leadership who were judged, but for the last five years Subject Leads are being judged more and more. In the 90’s, each Local Authority would have their own Subject Leads, who could upskill staff in schools. But now schools do not have such support. Many MATs and federations are developing dedicated subject leadership strategies. Our approach has been to develop a subject leadership handbook between our two schools. This handbook sets out our vision, expectations and timelines for Subject Leaders. It’s been designed to get new leaders up to speed as quickly as possible, and for experienced leaders it’s a useful touchstone. New leaders have also buddied up with experienced Subject Leaders, often across schools.

4. How will you be preparing for an inspection?

The main thing Ofsted will want us to evidence in relation to the Covid-19 learning gap, is “How do you know what students don’t know?” Baseline assessment will support much of this but running alongside this will be an adjustment to our school vision – how does our vision for learning fit in this new climate? What adjustments do we need to make? What financial impacts will this lead to? These are typically long term questions that we are having to make decisions on rapidly in a very uncertain world.

Assessment is better understood. We’re in the process of using Puma and Pira assessments which import neatly into our Arbor MIS. This will show us how student groups are doing across key measures. Equally we’re using our Early Years assessments to gauge how far we have to go in order to meet minimum requirements. Early evidence is suggesting that younger children have a wider learning gap than older children. What we know is that younger children also tend to make more rapid progress than older children. At the moment we have set a challenge to address 18 months of learning in one year. This will have to be adjusted if we are called to close again, as the suspicion is that a second round of school closures could create an even greater learning gap than the first.

Ofsted are also likely to ask whether you’re just doing the “minimum” to get students back on track with their learning, or if you’re being adaptive and creative in order to enrich their learning. The fact that we can’t get out on trips (Transport for London has closed school trips) makes this difficult for us to do, especially for foundation subjects. So we’re working with what we can do locally and internally, for example our Head of School recently dressed up as the Queen (which managed to convince our Year 1’s!)

5. How has Arbor helped you prepare for inspections in the past?

Arbor is where we can evidence core learning and the effectiveness of our policies around attendance, behaviour etc. We can get the data we need rapidly to show where we are, how things have changed over time, and which students are behind the trends, which is vital in Ofsted conversations.

Want to find out more about how Arbor MIS could transform the way your school works for the better? Book a free demo here or get in touch on tellmemore@arbor-education.com or 0208 050 1028.

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