Schools are a bit like the mythical Hydra. In the Greek myth, every time a head was chopped off the Hydra, two more grew in its place. Similarly, schools by their very diverse nature and makeup, are extremely busy places where it is impossible to keep on top of everything. Because no sooner has one job been completed than several others crop up to replace it. Teachers are focused on planning, delivery, and assessment. Senior leaders are occupied with keeping the whole ship afloat. Thus, Ofsted grades don’t tend to make the daily list of priorities. That is, unless an inspection is looming, or has just been completed.
Once an inspection is looming, it’s too late to do much that will affect the outcome.
This approach is a reactive one and one that is all too common because of the daily demands placed on school staff.
Effectively, being a teacher is sink or swim. And most of the time, staff find themselves floundering, battling against the overwhelming amount of work piling up around them.
Ofsted grades couldn’t be further from their thoughts.
But what if there were a better way to ensure positive Ofsted grades without taking up more of teachers’ valuable (and often already allocated) time?
It’s time to change the approach. Think prevention, rather than cure.
No One Cares About Ofsted Grades
Before anyone hits the roof, let me just qualify what I mean when I say, “no one cares about Ofsted grades.” Of course, people care about how competent Ofsted has judged a school to be. To begin with, the Governing Body and Senior Leadership team care immensely. Staff will, too. As do parents of both current and prospective students. Even the wider community.
However, no one cares about Ofsted grades all the time. And that is the important distinction to make. Because this usually determines whether people are reactive or proactive when it comes to Ofsted inspections, the new Ofsted framework, and for Independent Schools, meeting the requirements of the Independent School Standards.
It’s impossible for anyone working in a school to care about Ofsted grades all the time. There’s no time for that. So, people tend to start caring about Ofsted when an inspection is due, or after an unfavourable inspection.
This means that they don’t have the time to implement the systems that yield positive inspection results. Because systems take time to build and implement. And results take time to develop and measure.
The solution, therefore, is to change the mindset to one where every element is geared towards ongoing improvement, systematic monitoring and quality assurance. That way, even though people aren’t thinking about Ofsted grades, the systems are in place to ensure that everything and everyone is inspection-ready and delivering a continuously improving level of education to students.
What Does Prevention Look Like?
There are three things a school needs in order to improve and consistently deliver an excellent quality of education:
Someone to help them develop a robust continuous improvement system;
An internal “driver” to lead its implementation;
An external critical friend to hold them to account and ensure that they are making improvements.
With these three elements in place, schools have a solid foundation upon which to build continuous improvement, and consistently meet the requirements of the Independent School Standards, as well as those of the new Ofsted framework.
As a school improvement partner, I work closely with Headteachers and Senior Leaders to build the systems that drive continuous school improvement. I coach and support the school leader appointed to drive whole-school improvement. And I offer a critical eye (and ear) to quality assure the successful implementation of the systems we’ve developed.
You can find further details regarding my approach to school improvement in, Why Marell Consulting?
Everything is geared towards turning strategies and methodologies into routines. After all, if you routinely look after your health with exercise and a balanced diet, you’re less likely to fall ill or need to visit the doctor.
Achieving positive Ofsted grades is the same. Make ‘best practice’ your ‘standard practice’ and you’ll prevent unwanted outcomes.
Remember, prevention is always better than cure.