Leadership and Accountability: December 2013

The Accountability Forum last week was clearly popular topic, we are very grateful to the many that were able to attend. There are others who wanted to but are awaiting the slides that accompany this blog.  This will be a longer than usual blog but feel free to be selective and scroll down to the highlighted section that interests you most.  Our main speaker, Graham Tuck who will finish his current commitments this term to take up a new challenge as Executive Head of a series of academy schools across the country, has 30 years experience including two secondary headships, School Improvement Partner and National Challenge Advisory work across the country. As an additional inspector for Tribal (not directly for Ofsted) Graham has a wealth of experience he could share with us and which I summarise here.

Graham started by sharing the recent changes to the evaluation framework .

  • He reminded us of the very clear focus on Pupil Premium. Both the progress (from starting point) of all PPG students and also evidence of the impact of the different strategies the school has used the grant to provide. He made clear there should also be an ability to discuss the progress of SEND and Upper Ability pupils in a similar depth. Transition matrices for PPG students feature in Raise for the first time this year but many schools are also using subject specific matrices to be able to evaluate progress in all subjects. Teachers need to be able to explain how they plan for the progress of these groups of students.
  • Graham highlighted two very useful documents which show the current thinking based on inspections last year for making progress in Maths and English.
  • The focus on behaviour linked closely to teaching. As well as behaviour around school and between lessons it particularly focused on engagement for learning and that as such the two judgements would be inevitably linked.
  • Graham was very clear to make clear Wilshaw’s point that no particular type of lesson was expected was being upheld by inspectors. He suggested if schools experience individual inspectors who do show a preference for style in the judgements they are reaching that this would be appropriate to take up with the lead inspector.
  • Governance has been given new status and gains a lengthy paragraph in the new style reports. Governors have to be able to show they have not “been told”, but that they “genuinely know” how the school is doing. They need to be able to show how they contribute to strategic direction, their understanding of finance (value for money) and how they ensure high quality teaching. Their knowledge of performance related pay structures, safeguarding and engagement with the community will also be assessed.

Graham then described how an inspector might prepare for an inspection, what they have access to before they make the call. He explained this may happen 4 weeks before the date of the inspection. They will have:

  • Two years’ worth of Raise (If a school has recently converted to an academy the “new school” must be treated as such and any previous Raise reports from before then will be treated as for a different school.)
  • VI form data from the Panda, the previous requirement for retention and completion rates has not been explicitly taken away but is not mentioned in new guidance. The focus will be on progress from KS4-5.
  • The previous inspection and any focused inspection reports. Schools must be clear on the areas for improvement and what has been done about them (even if 5 years ago), as must governors.
  • Data dashboard. Again the governors will need knowledge of this and Raise.
  • The amount of Year 7 catch up funding awarded to the school (be prepared to talk about how this has been used and its impact)
  • The school website will show details of the Pupil Premium and exam data. It is useful to also show the structure of the school day (to help the Lead Inspector plan meetings and timings).
  • Parent View, in some schools this does not lead to large numbers so if you have other examples of parent feedback over time this can be also be used with inspectors.

The Phone Call is a scripted event lasting up to 40 minutes. It is highly beneficial to train the reception staff to expect a call from “Tribal” (or other inspecting bodies) as they will not announce themselves as “Ofsted”. Getting this call received in the right, positive and proactive manner is a great starting point. If the Headteacher is not available they will ask to speak to the Deputy. It will not be acceptable for the Head to ring them back later. This phone call is for the purposes of organisation only, there will be no PIB. The information requested may include:

  • the requirement of meetings to be set up,
  • a request for the summary SEF to be sent,
  • the letter to parents to be sent out and requirement for a notice on the school website,
  • a timetable for the 2 days that is easily accessible for inspectors to understand (staff codes, class codes etc. can be confusing and they have about 10 minutes in the morning of Day 1 to organise who is going where),
  • anonymised performance management details,
  • behaviour logs and SEN numbers,
  • Governors’ minutes.

The Lead Inspector has to get the key information to the team by the afternoon of the day of the phone call, so knowing what is expected is crucial. The meeting discussed how many schools have detailed OFSTED check-lists to allocate tasks for this information and other necessary tasks once the call has come through so that it is all dealt with calmly and efficiently.

Graham then took us through some useful slides on the Achievement Judgement which showed examples from a school which had made the journey to outstanding to show what that looks like and what goes into the judgement.  Because a school judged Good or Outstanding can be left for 5 years it is crucial for inspectors to understand the achievement past, present and into the future. It has to be shown as consistent improvement over time. Being able to show current attainment levels and how robust they are will be important as well, it is the comparison between attainment on entry and attainment on leaving that makes up the big picture behind the judgement.  For Pupil Premium students the achievement from starting point is critical and APS comparison to all students will be used. As ever it is useful to have case studies to show the students whose achievement was significantly above and below “the line”. For SEN students it is all about progress from their individual starting point rather than pure outcomes.

In terms of Teaching and Learning, Graham was clear the documents on Maths and English are interesting pointers in these subjects. Depth of understanding in Maths is paramount, securing conceptual understanding not the surface ability to pass a test. Strong Literacy with students showing a love of reading is well received. Graham was clear that inspectors will not be looking for a type of lesson but will be clear to see the relevance and purpose of activities. The learning should be planned, not a sequence of tasks. There is an ability to see progress over time through books and talking to students not necessarily in just a 20 minute observation. Teachers should show an ability to adapt learning from questioning; marking must be evident and show response to feedback. Schools who have moved away from exercise books will want to think about how they can enable inspectors to see this.

Peter Woodman, Head of The Weald (judged outstanding in October) took us through a series of exercises and discussion topics which clearly reminded us that a good or outstanding judgement is not acquired by a “performance” over 2 days, it is the product of hard work and clear school improvement. He reminded us that accountability is often not an easy path to tread but one we cannot afford to avoid for the genuine benefit of all staff and students. His tasks on leadership and delegation made us reflect on why it sometimes goes wrong and how. Are we clear about this with the staff who work with us? How often do we check? How do we know?

Eddie Rodriguez, Head of Oathall (judged good in October) showed us how he had clearly managed the planning required. His Required Docs summary document emphasised the set of data required. Clear checklists allowed staff to be ready and able to show the school to it’s best when the call and Inspection notification letter finally came. In talking us through his experience of the Ofsted visit, Eddie spoke of a clear difference in tone between Day 1 and Day 2. Engaging with the Lead Inspector as positively as possible, to provide the data or case that will allow the dialogue to take place is vital.  It is possible for the school to present a different perspective to that which the inspectors may arrive with but it is something the school must be willing and ready to be proactive about, and they must be able to see evidence of it around the school.

This was a Forum which delivered information schools need to be able to prepare for when that call finally comes. Graham did not avoid the challenge that inspections are reportedly presenting inconsistently at times but was clear on how schools can take the discussion to the inspectors and be clear on what inspectors have been advised to base their judgements on. The Forum also posed some thought-provoking questions about leadership and accountability in its widest sense. We are very grateful to Graham, Peter and Eddie for their presentations as well as the delegates who came along, many who stayed far longer than intended!

For all I hope it will be a happy and restful break. The New Year will see the start of the Joint Practise Development Project and a Curriculum Forum but for now we wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Caroline Barlow (on behalf of The WSDN)

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