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Just A Little Something - Episode 2



Just a Little Something – Episode 2

 

A few weeks ago, I started what I intend to be a regular series called Just a little something. It will cover 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



 

And to borrow the DfE’s disclaimer from the above document what I share with you here: is not purported to be definitive guidance on the meaning of the standards themselves, only a court can give that.

 

Today we are looking at paragraph 34 – Quality of leadership in and management of schools

 

  • This is the standard which most schools fail to meet. Why? Two of the sub-paragraphs under this standard require leaders and managers to ensure that the independent school standards are met consistently. Therefore, anytime a school fails to meet any of the other independent school standards, they have also failed to meet paragraph 34


  • I know some of you are thinking – “does this mean, if all the other standards are met, standard 34 is automatically met?” Absolutely not. First there is the issue of consistency. The requirement is that the standards are met consistently. So, it is not just about demonstrating compliance on the day – it is about having systems in place for ensuring consistent compliance. Systems that are being implemented – so that is clear that school leaders, the proprietor and governors are always acting to ensure compliance.


  • Consistency is also an issue when a school has addressed previously un-met standards and at the time of an inspection, improvements are recent because it is too soon to tell if leaders will manage to maintain compliance. Or when there is a lot of turnover, and the leadership team is new and untested in terms of ensuring compliance. Also, when systems for ensuring consistent compliance are brand new and yet to be embedded.


  • Outside of consistency there are other considerations. Although the two sub-paragraphs I referred to earlier both end with the phrase “so that the independent school standards are met consistently” they begin differently. 34 (1)(a) requires leaders and managers to “demonstrate good skills and knowledge appropriate to their role so that …”  And 34(1)(b) requires leaders and mangers to “fulfil their responsibilities effectively so that…” Let me give you some examples of what this means – and this is extracted directly from some Ofsted inspection reports


  • Yes, I spend some of my time looking at inspection statistics and reading inspection reports. Anyway, today I looked at progress monitoring inspection reports in which all the other standards were met except paragraph 34, and these are some examples of what I found:

 

  • “Unmet standards in parts 1, 2, 3 and 5 are now judged to be met…Leaders have the capacity to continue driving improvement. They have responded with vigour and consideration to the findings of the previous inspection. Many improvements are new, and some are particularly recent. It is too soon to judge that the requirements of the standards are ‘consistently’ met. Therefore, part 8 remains unmet.”

 

  • “However, although leaders have been successful in focusing on improving some aspects of the school, especially safeguarding arrangements, they are not demonstrating the knowledge required to meet all the independent school standards consistently. Leaders are still not paying sufficient attention to detail. For example, amendments had to be made during the inspection to resolve inaccuracies in policies, and to ensure website compliance.” – this is a clear example of non-compliance with the requirement for leaders to “demonstrate knowledge and skill appropriate to their role”

 

  • “Governors’ roles in holding leaders to account are at an early stage of development. They are too accepting of what leaders tell them about the school’s work. For instance, at a recent governing board meeting, no questions were asked about the school’s improvement plan, which had been circulated well in advance of the meeting.” – there you go, that’s an example of non-compliance with the requirement for leaders and managers to “fulfil their responsibilities effectively”

 

So, what to do?

 

  • Knowledge and skill appropriate to the role: are leaders qualified and do they have the necessary experience to fulfil for role; what additional training do they need or do you need to recruit to add specific expertise to the leadership team; do the proprietor and governors have the collective expertise required to fulfil governance functions, have you completed a skills audit; what additional training do they need or do you need additional governors to add specific expertise



  • Fulfil responsibilities effectively: is the performance of school leaders evaluated by suitably qualified and experienced proprietor or governors; are governance meetings being used to hold leaders to account for the performance of the school and to check that ISS are met; is governance evaluated by an external body; does the school have a system for ensuring consistent compliance with the ISS; do governors and the proprietor have a system of oversight to ensure that the ISS are met?

 

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