Ofsted: The lessons learned so far

Written by: HTU | Published:

Four months into the new Ofsted regime, Headteacher Update has analysed 30 recent primary inspection reports and discovers a tale of strong leadership and positive results. We look at what lessons we can learn

It has been one headline after another. The Daily Telegraph told us that “5,000 headteachers lack leadership”, while the Daily Mail accused headteachers of “trotting out excuses”. Comments, quotes and “indications” from Sir Michael Wilshaw have not brought the feel good factor to the majority of school leaders either.

Four months into the new inspection regime and Headteacher Update has selected at random 30 Ofsted reports from recent primary school inspections to present a snapshot of our primary schools and their leaders.

Inside this edition, a special report analyses the 30 reports and their implications for the thousands of primary schools which are still to face their first new-framework inspection.

However, far from reading about failing schools, poor leadership and substandard teaching, the reports – from primary schools across the country – present a very different picture. They describe:

• School leaders who are passionate about providing pupils with a high quality education (Holy Spirit Primary School).

• A strong leadership team led very effectively by a determined headteacher (Blackfell Primary School).

• A headteacher who has, over three years, driven improvement energetically and with a clear sense of direction (Grangetown Primary School).

• A headteacher who has provided an excellent role model for senior staff, who have led the way in improving provision and raising pupils’ achievement (Broken Cross Community School).

Twenty-six out of the 30 inspections judged the school leadership and management to be good and in only four schools was it rated as satisfactory.

From the 30 reports examined, no school has been placed in special measures, 23 of the 30 were classified as being good for “overall effectiveness” and seven as satisfactory. None achieved outstanding. Of the five judgements, behaviour and safety was the only judgement in any school to be given outstanding, with six schools achieving this grade.

Amanda Gregory, headteacher at Harris Primary School in Preston, was hoping that her school might have moved from good to outstanding and felt that under the previous framework it may well have done so.

She said: “This was a rigorous inspection. I felt the bar has been raised. We know that the school has improved since its last inspection in 2006 but we still came out with a good rather than outstanding at the end of it all.”

The leadership of senior management at Holy Spirit Catholic and Church of England Primary School in The Wirral was described as being outstanding. Its headteacher at the time of the report, Ann Melville, retired a few weeks later.

Ms Melville has been involved in 14 inspections in different capacities and has seen a mixture of results.

She said: “The inspectors were rigorous, but I wouldn’t say any more so than in previous inspections. They did spend a lot of time in classrooms and talking to children. As a head you need to be up and running with your data. You can challenge RAISE, but you’ve got to show that you know what you’re talking about.”

Heads like Ms Gregory and Ms Melville recognise that inspectors are data-driven but know that there are stories behind the data that they must “trot out”.

With satisfactory schools being retitled as “requiring improvement” and the subsequent threat of failing, there is a palpable level of unease.

It is unfortunate that Sir Michael Wilshaw, the Ofsted chief, is presenting such a hard-nosed attitude towards schools and their leaders. It seems to be doing nothing more than antagonising and dispiriting the very people who these reports suggest are doing such a good job.

Read our analysis of the 30 Ofsted reports and the lessons learned so far.

• For more primary education news from Headteacher Update, click here.

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