Acting on inspection outcomes
Many school leaders and governors will spend weeks, months or even years preparing for an Ofsted inspection and, once they have been through an inspection, may find their school struggling with the aftermath.
Schools that have been judged ‘inadequate’ will need to act quickly to address their inspection outcome. Similarly, schools that receive the ‘requires improvement’ judgement will be expected to produce action plans – these schools should work with the national leaders of education (NLE), teaching schools, and their trust or LA to ensure that they act swiftly to address the problems identified. Schools that receive the ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ judgements may struggle to maintain their focus as they will often have spent more time on working to achieve a high grade; therefore, it is important that all schools keep a steady balance between being ‘Ofsted-ready’ and fulfilling their purpose to improve outcomes for pupils.
The DfE introduced the coasting standards to address this matter and ensure that school leaders are held to account for pupil outcomes. This article outlines good practice actions following an inspection to ensure that school leaders aim for improvement and use the inspection process as part of the quality assurance and evaluation of their school’s effectiveness.
Initial inspection outcomes
At the end of an inspection, school leaders and governors will be presented with the final feedback – the lead inspector will stress that the overall judgement is confidential and subject to quality assurance, meaning the judgement may change. This confidentiality is important and must be adhered to; whilst staff and parents will be curious, outcomes must not be shared until the final report is published to ensure fairness for all stakeholders and allow leaders time for reflection.
Informing the school community
It is important to share Ofsted reports with the whole school community – where outstanding or good judgements are received, leaders should celebrate the judgement but also share any actions to be taken as a result. Those that receive poor judgements should address this by publicly accepting the outcome and explaining the school’s next steps. Providing transparency in this way can help to highlight leaders’ effectiveness and respect of the inspection process. An example of poor practice would be a refusal to publicly accept the judgement or a particular aspect of the inspection.
A simple and effective way of communicating judgements to the community is by sending letters to parents, providing them with the opportunity to view the outcome in both an electronic and paper format.
Addressing any areas highlighted in the report
Whilst schools that are judged as good are not expected to complete action plans, it would still be considered good practice to do so. An action plan would highlight actions that can be incorporated into the SDP and used to further improve the school.
Aspirations for school improvement should be shared by all governors, school leaders and staff. Minutes from meetings and the actions taken by leaders can highlight the impact of inspection recommendations – this is strong evidence that can be presented in a school’s next section 8 inspection, which will usually occur three years after the previous inspection. Through this evidence, leaders can demonstrate their professional attitude taken to address areas for improvement. Inspectors often struggle to gather this evidence from schools, so by taking such simple and effective measures, schools can show they have clear, strategic plans.
How should schools self-evaluate following their report?
Ofsted’s inspection framework should not influence decisions made by schools; instead, it should be used as a quality assurance mechanism that enables leaders to judge their effectiveness. As with any self-evaluation, leaders need to be realistic and ensure they evaluate the performance of the school thoroughly and with objectivity. Sometimes self-evaluations can be unrealistic, so the inspection report helps to ensure that all stakeholders have an accurate understanding of a school’s performance.
Many schools that have been inspected in the past three years have used the inspection process to further improve their practices, leaders’ effectiveness and pupil outcomes. Following an inspection, school leaders should reflect on the process and focus on effective ways to gather evidence accurately to make their own judgements and develop actions for improvement. To demonstrate good practice, leaders could develop their school monitoring systems and work on improving the school’s overall practice.
School leaders who are part of the inspection process from the start, and are working alongside the inspection team, can conclude realistic judgements of their school and develop achievable goals for the future.
Visit our ‘Ofsted and inspection’ topic for more information on preparing for inspections, what happens during an inspection, and resources to help with the post-inspection period.