Just a little something…Episode 1
This is the beginning of a series about some things some leaders of independent schools overlook, omit, misunderstand, or fail to address when it comes to meeting the all-important Independent School Standards. This series will not go through the standards in any sort of order and special requests are welcome so get in touch.
Before we begin: a bit of advice
· Please find time to read The Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014 (Make sure that where it says “version” on the left hand side that “latest available (revised)” is ticked then in the body just scroll down to the heading SCHEDULE and begin there.
And to borrow the DfE’s disclaimer from the above document what I share with you here: “It does not purport to be definitive guidance on the meaning of the standards themselves, which only a court can give.”
Let’s kick it off with paragraph 32 (provision of information) a standard about the information independent schools are required to provide or make available to:
· parents of pupils
· parents of prospective pupils
· other people or agencies such as local authorities, inspectors
An easy way to provide most of the information required is the school’s website and that’s what we are looking at today. There are 5 common areas that are overlooked, omitted:
1. When the proprietor of a school is a body of persons rather than an individual, the requirement is to publish the address and telephone number of its registered or principal office – many forget to indicate that this body is the proprietor. So, the name of this body and the address and telephone number of its registered or principal office will be on the website but there will be nothing stating that this body IS the proprietor.
2. The number of formal complaints received in the last academic year – school leaders just flat out forget to put this on the website. And when they become aware, some struggle to find a suitable place to put this information because it is such a tiny unit – the front page of the complaints policy a good place.
3. When it comes to inspection reports some think that the requirement is to publish the most recent inspection report – this is incorrect. Schools are required to publish all standard and additional inspection reports except pre-registration and material change inspections (most likely because judgments on these are about likelihood to meet standards rather than an evaluation of the extent to meet the standards). I digress. Back, unless you want to add multiple links to all standard, progress monitoring and emergency inspection reports, it’s easier to just have a link to the school’s Ofsted page when all inspections can be found.
4. Particulars of educational and welfare provision for pupils for whom English is a second language (EAL policy) – schools either fail to publish or leaders think that they don’t have to publish this because they do not have pupils who speak English as an additional language. Incorrect. It is required.
5. Statement of the schools aims and ethos – schools either fail to publish this or they publish a few paragraphs talking about what they do, how they deliver their offer etc. No! This is about who you are as a school, why you do what you do. Your values/aims/mission/vision, what you are about.
We have produced a simple checklist of what you should publish to meet the requirements of paragraph 32. You can download it for free here on our website. But please note , what you publish on your school website is not enough to meet all of the requirements of paragraph 32 – other requirements cover information that you should provide directly to individual parents, the local authority, and inspectors. The checklist covers what is required for paragraph 32 (1) (a) – (e); 32 (2); 32(3); 31(4). It does not cover 32 (1) (f) – (k)
Check the legislation for the rest of it.
This checklist is obviously not the definitive list of everything that should be on your website, you will need to provide more information like opening times, term dates, you know, the information parents, pupils, commissioners, potential staff might be interested in. I mean, you can publish whatever you want on your school website as long as you don’t break any laws such ad GDPR.
Some of you might have come across guidance about what maintained schools must publish online – feel free to follow that as much as possible (there are some things it requires that you have) but make sure that you check what you publish against the items required by paragraph 32 because some are not on the maintained list. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/what-maintained-schools-must-publish-online
Finally, please make sure that anytime a policy or procedure is updated, you immediately upload it to the website. Inspectors read these documents before they come to your school. Imagine how you would feel if you spent time reading documents in preparation for an event only to be told on the day “Sorry, the documents you read are not the most up to date versions”. How would that feel? Inspectors are professionals but they are also human.