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How to follow up an Ofsted inspection at one of your schools
Follow our guide so that you can provide effective support to your schools after they've been inspected by Ofsted. We go through the steps you should take whether your school is judged 'outstanding' or 'inadequate'.
- Attend the final inspection meeting
- Go through the inspection report
- Draw up your action plans
- Follow up with the academy
We wrote this with one of our experts, David New, who is a current Ofsted inspector.
Attend the final inspection meeting
Make sure the CEO, or someone from the central leadership team, attends the final meeting with the inspector and school headteacher. This is because Ofsted reports follow a strict style and don't give the full picture.
Make notes during the meeting and use these to support you when you go through the inspection report.
This is particularly useful for 'good' and 'outstanding' academy action plans
Inspection reports for these schools don't, by their nature, contain as many (or as in depth) comments for improvement. That doesn't mean that there's no room for improvement, though.
So during the final meeting you can talk through comments in more detail with the inspector and this will feed into your action plan.
Go through the inspection report
Read the inspection report to understand the judgement and how the inspector got to it. Pull out areas for improvement to go into your action plan.
For section 5, or 'full', inspection reports
Focus first on the 'summary of key findings' and areas under 'what the school needs to do to improve further'.
These areas for improvement should form part of the discussion during the inspection, so you and the headteacher will be aware of them (unless it's for a school judged 'inadequate' and brokered into your trust as a result).
Then, check the comments at the end, under 'information about this inspection', for any gaps in the school's compliance with statutory document and policy keeping or website requirements.
For section 8, or 'short', inspection outcome letters
These are structured differently, but will still include next steps for the school, as well as a summary about the findings and a statement on safeguarding.
In a short inspection there are particular 'lines of enquiry' that the inspector will focus on. These are usually based on things raised in, for example, the performance data, the school's website, parent views or complaints and/or initial discussions with the headteacher.
- For academies which continue to be 'good': the issues that formed the lines of enquiry will have been successfully addressed and no immediate action is necessary
- For academies which are recommended to have section 5 inspection within 2 years: the lines of enquiry are likely to have provided the areas for the ‘next steps’. These need to be addressed to avoid a 'requires improvement' or 'inadequate' judgement. They should be a high priority on the action plan (see the next section)
Bear in mind that a short inspection will focus on fewer aspects than a full inspection, so you shouldn't rely on the 'next steps' alone. They're a good starting point but there may be other weaknesses not found in the inspection due to time restraints.
For monitoring visit letters
These cover whether effective action has happened since the last section 5 inspection.
Look for information in the letter about whether your trust's statement of action is fit for purpose, as well as the individual school plan. In the conclusion, there's a summary of the effectiveness of external support, which includes the trust. Pay particular attention to any deficiencies in your support identified here.
Draw up your action plans
Make separate plans for the trust and the school
Make sure your trust action plan (or statement of actions) and individual school action plan are closely related because you'll support the school's plan through your own one.
In the school's plan you should detail which particular actions come from the trust. These elements can then make up the trust action plan.
Use your 'next steps'
Make sure you list each of the next steps/areas for improvement identified from the report as individual areas to address.
They don't have to be the only items on the plan, but should be the highest priority. Be wary of adding too many beyond those identified in the inspection; the more actions you list in the plan, the less focus you can give to each.
Make your targets achievable
Give specific, measurable targets for each area. Link them to pupil outcomes, and make sure at a minimum they're in line with national expectations (for example, progress, attainment, or attendance/persistent absence depending on the target).
If 'good' or 'outstanding' (or aiming for this), set the targets above the national average.
Where the area relates to governance or safeguarding, set targets related to actions (e.g. "all governors have had appropriate training"). Give them ambitious, but achievable, dates for completion.
Make your timescales realistic and build in milestones
Consider the scale of the task at hand. Actions to remove an academy from special measures should show some impact in the first year, but it's unlikely that they'll achieve targets in line with national figures within a year, or possibly even 2 years.
However, if your academy is on notice for a full inspection within 2 years, it should achieve outcomes in line with (or exceeding) national figures within the 2-year period.
Build in milestones for achieving the targets that reflect the priority of the action. For example, for academies judged 'inadequate', make milestones 6 weeks or less. If 'requires improvement', make them 6 to 12 weeks.
Evaluate the plan
Your trust leadership is responsible for holding the school leadership to account for achieving the plan.
Make it clear in the plan how you'll check and evaluate each area of improvement. Consider using a 'RAG rating' (red, amber, green) for each action, so you can easily check the progress towards the success of the plan.
Build in how you'll get updates from the school, but also how you'll independently verify with your own evidence. There's more detail on following up on the plan in the next section.
Commission reviews if needed
If the reports recommend any external reviews, commission these as soon as possible. You'll want to use the findings in your action plans.
Follow up with the academy
Be 'lighter touch' with effective leaders
The effectiveness of the school leadership will influence how you follow up on the implementation and evaluation of the plans. If the school was judged to have ineffective leadership at senior or middle leadership level, you'll need to monitor more frequently, and pay closer attention to the evidence of improvement.
Where leadership is deemed effective, you can have more confidence in the reports about progress.
However, in all cases, you still need to check on the progress of the plan and make sure its success is improving outcomes for pupils and not just the completion of the actions to no effect.
Play a strategic role unless otherwise stated
You should only get involved in the operational side of the school plan where you've agreed to provide specific support.
For example, someone from your trust leadership team may step in to provide leadership at the school in a specific area, because of recruitment or capacity issues. In such cases, make sure it's clear who that person is accountable to whilst delivering support in the academy.
The same goes for governance. As a general rule, the school leadership team are responsible for carrying out the plan and the local governing board for providing oversight of this. However, if governors' leadership has been identified as a weakness in the inspection, you may need to provide closer monitoring until governance is stronger.
Use the evidence and milestones outlined in the plan
You should satisfy yourself that the supporting evidence is reliable, but you should also gather evidence independently of them to support the school's assessment. This could be reports from teachers, or from other academies in the trust who are providing support. You could also conduct visits and work scrutinies, and talk with students and staff.
Ask the school leadership to evaluate the effectiveness of actions on a 6 to 12 week cycle, depending on the urgency of the action. This is where the milestones mentioned above come in; if the school isn't on track, think about where you need to amend the target (if it was unrealistic initially) or provide more support to help them reach it.
Other tips for inspections
- Make sure the school puts a copy of the inspection report, or a link to it, on it's website (this is a statutory requirement) and sends a letter to parents about the result
- Make sure you're familiar with the Ofsted handbook and framework
- Look at the types of questions Ofsted inspectors might ask MAT leaders
David New, an education consultant, was the headteacher of a large secondary school for nine years. He has particular expertise in lettings, staffing, academy conversion and the secondary curriculum.
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