Originally uploaded by GerritsenBeach.Net
Edit: This TES article suggests that the % of schools receiving Ofsted Grade 4 have doubled since the new framework came into force
Two years ago I had to make a really tough decision. I talked it over with my wife, I talked it over with my colleagues, I talked it over with my kids. In the end, we collectively chose the school we thought was right. The school that would offer the best opportunities for progression and the school that had the most positive atmosphere.
We sent my son to the local voluntary aided secondary school.
It’s not been a faultless relationship, and you always worry, but I’ve been happy that my son is in a good school.
And then Ofsted arrived. This isn’t about them, but it’s an important plot point. Ofsted came, Ofsted saw, Ofsted went away to write their report. Rumours abounded – they’e coming back, they didn’t like us, one fell down the stairs, we’re a failing school.
My son came home to tell me he is attending a failing school. Did I make the wrong choice? Have I ruined his education? Do I pull him out now? Where do we send him instead?
The official letter arrived yesterday morning, and it was a Grade 4 – Notice To Improve.
The school responded with a meeting for parents, a meeting that was pretty well attended. Those present were a self selecting group, and I suspect there was a greater than average representation from those parents involved in education, but there were plenty who aren’t.
I left the meeting with a mixture of emotions. Some parents were clearly angry with the school, and the question was raised about ultimate responsibility and whether the Head should step down. I’m happy to say that he isn’t, and much of the meeting was actually very positive.
The school’s problems stem from poor progress in English, particularly amongst boys, significantly disruptive behaviour from a small number of students affecting the learning of others, a lack of consistent feedback, too much didactic teaching and a lack of stretch and challenge for the more able*.
At my place we’ve had a lot of initiatives from SLT of late on progress, feedback and narrowing the gap (terms with which I am certain you are familiar). With the exception of the behavioural issues that is pretty much an identical list. I guess this means that my SLT are doing the right things.
The really important thing that I’m taking away from the meeting is the comment from a parent that we have to go home and we have to talk to our children. Today, the SLT need to talk to the children. And we all need to speak with the same voice and tell them that this is not a failing school. This is a school that needs to do some things better. And we all have a responsibility to do that. Teachers, leaders, pupils and parents. We *are* the school. We’re working hard and we will make mistakes. And we will learn from those mistakes and we will do better. And next time the inspectors come, they’ll see that this is a Good school.
* My interpretation of the publicly available Ofsted report
** Apologies to @simfin for stealing his title
[cynic] And while it wasn’t mentioned, come hell or high water I will fight tooth and nail to fight any suggestion of academy status. It would be incredibly cynical to suggest a link between Ofsted downgrading schools and the DfE pushing for all schools to become academies, so I will take great pains to avoiding making that suggestions. [/cynic]