Ofsted. The mere mention of the organisation is enough to strike fear into even the stoutest of hearts. It’s very easy for senior leaders to inadvertently create even more workload for their staff in order to demonstrate to inspectors that the school has everything covered. Sometimes, an increase in workload cannot be avoided. Unfortunately, however, when it comes to inspections some of the advice ‘out there’ is almost designed to lead to a great deal of unnecessary work. One thing a MAT can do is lay down a few rules for its schools which, while perhaps not reducing the anxiety of an inspection, may at least keep the workload under control.
First, be careful about hiring consultants who used to be Ofsted inspectors. As states, these Additional Inspectors often represented a quality assurance nightmare. These days, inspectors are employed directly by Ofsted rather than by third party agencies, and are much more likely to be both familiar with what Ofsted is looking for and possess common sense.
The fact of the matter is that Ofsted officially has no expectations about how a school achieves its goals, only how effective its methods are. (Also, Ofsted checks schools’ compliance with the law, and is obliged to report non-compliance.)
Secondly, inspectors do not expect to see written lesson plans, only evidence of planning. In other words, if a lesson is well-structured, and resources are appropriate, that should be obvious to any observer. There is no need to make staff complete detailed lesson plan templates that may take them longer to do than the actual lesson. A more useful proposition might be to suggest staff use a — for their own benefit rather than the inspectors’.
In fact, in every aspect of school inspections, such as observing lessons, checking teachers’ feedback and assessment, looking at pupils’ work or even data, Ofsted does not expect or look for anything above and beyond what the school is already doing in its day-to-day operations.
For example, when it comes to data, Ofsted explicitly states that it:
“… does not expect performance and pupil-tracking information to be presented in a particular format. Such information should be provided to inspectors in the format that the school would ordinarily use to monitor the progress of pupils in that school.”
Clearly, the important aspect of that paragraph is that there is an expectation that the school is indeed monitoring the progress of pupils. As part of that, the school will also be keeping track of behaviour, attendance and punctuality, because of the need to predict when a pupil’s expected grades are likely to fall, or explain why they have done so. If schools are using to gather such data, and the MAT is using to collate the data from all its schools, it will be easy to show the inspectors any data they ask to see.
Ofsted is no longer the authoritarian organisation it perhaps once was. Common sense, and a desire to avoid causing teachers to have even more work placed on them, are very much the order of the day.