There’s a fear factor associated with Ofsted. It’s a name only ever uttered under one’s breath. And even then, it’s in the darkest corners of the staffroom in a conversation dripping with anxiety. Inspections are a source of dread and worry. Very few people like Ofsted (to put it mildly).
That is, except me.
Teachers should not fear Ofsted. They should embrace it.
I believe Ofsted is your friend.
What’s Wrong with School Improvement?
Firstly, Ofsted exists to quality assure all organisations providing education, training and care services in England, making sure they do so to a high standard for children and students. Ofsted is about helping schools improve and maintain the quality of teaching and learning. Essentially, Ofsted is there to ensure that students across England, regardless of background or postcode, get the same opportunities and receive the same standard of education.
What’s scary about that?
Surely there’s nothing wrong with holding people to account over the impact they have on young people’s lives?
Ofsted is a force for good (and outstanding) quality of education. And this should be lauded, not demonised.
If you fear Ofsted, it can only mean that you’re either unprepared, or you know that you’re not up to standard.
An educational establishment that embraces Ofsted inspections as an evaluation tool, seeing it as a cycle of ongoing reflection and school improvement, will consistently be successful under inspection.
If you fear Ofsted, it says more about you than it does about them.
So, be positive. It’s time for a change of mindset and approach to Ofsted.
Always Be Prepared
As with any type of inspection, it always helps to be prepared.
That’s not to say that you constantly have to be in a state of high-alert with a hefty portfolio of evidence ready to present to an inspector at the drop of a hat. But developing and maintaining systems to ensure that regulations and standards are met and checked consistently is paramount to preparedness. Everything must be monitored and evidence gathered as part of your school’s ongoing process of evaluation and iteration.
Being ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ is not the result of the frenzy of preparation before an inspection — there is just not enough time these days with 1-day and no-notice inspections.
At the risk of sounding cliché, it’s a state of mind. To be a ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ education provider you need ongoing, embedded and systematised processes that not only permeate through the entire staff hierarchy, but that are also understood and accepted by the students.
Whole-school buy-in is essential.
Ofsted readiness should not be a box-ticking exercise. It should be your companion guide for better provision. Accept this. Have it at the forefront of your delivery, your departmental review process, and your school development plan. Make it habitual and you’ll embody what Will Durant so eloquently put:
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
An Ofsted Inspection is Your Chance to Shine
Contrary to popular opinion, I believe we should start seeing Ofsted inspections as more of a celebration than an ultimate judgment.
Think of it as a dinner party where you get to show off your home and your culinary skills, rather than a date with the Spanish Inquisition and the torture chamber.
You see, once you have all the systems and processes in place to quality assure your delivery, an Ofsted inspection becomes an opportunity for you to strut your stuff and really demonstrate why you are an excellent provider. This makes the whole experience a positive process, and one more likely to yield positive results.
Ofsted Inspectors Are There To Support You
It’s important to realise that Ofsted inspectors will look for the positives. Ultimately, they want to see you at your everyday best. Therefore, show them all the systems you have running in the background that make the day-to-day glide from start to finish like a well-oiled machine.
In other words, they’re not there to catch you out. They’re there to hear you out and better understand your situation, approach, and results.
An Ofsted inspection is a collaborative process with one ultimate end-goal: the best possible educational provision for our young people.
Isn’t this why we all started in education in the first place?
Shouldn’t this be the reason to see Ofsted as a friend, not an enemy?
There’s really only one answer to both these questions.
What will yours be?