Ofsted: Leadership and Management

Written by: HTU | Published:

In the third of our series focusing on the four core inspection judgements, we hear from schools judged outstanding for leadership and management and offer advice for other schools seeking to improve in this crucial area. Suzanne O’Connell reports

Every judgement in an Ofsted report is vital to you as headteacher. However, the judgement of leadership and management has a particular significance. This is where the inspectors have focused specifically on your ability as a school leader and the leadership skills in others that you have fostered. 

During the feedback session it is often the last verdict to be given. However, the leadership judgement does not always reflect the school’s overall judgement for effectiveness. There are schools where a new leader has really galvanised those around them and progress and improvements need recognition. 

As the number of judgements in the inspection framework has shrunk, so leadership and management has absorbed them. Inspectors are asked to consider partnerships with parents and the community, safeguarding, curriculum, and spiritual, moral, social, cultural (SMSC) aspects within the leadership and management judgement. More recently we have seen reporting on primary school sport funding and systems leadership added to the list. In this article we speak to three schools who have been given an “outstanding” judgement for leadership and management in this new inspection framework. We ask them to reflect on their experience, what the inspectors liked and what their advice is to other schools. 

Introducing the schools

Pewithall Primary School is an average-sized school in Cheshire. David Baugh, headteacher, is part of a new leadership team consisting of two assistant heads and a teaching and learning responsibility post. Mr Baugh was promoted from within the school so the team was already used to working together. They had been judged outstanding at their reduced tariff inspection in 2008.

St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Wetherby was judged to be good at its reduced tariff inspection in 2009. Since then it has also had an interim assessment statement in 2012. Headteacher Stephen Nicholson has been at St Joseph’s for two years and has recently appointed a new deputy headteacher.

Terling CE Voluntary Aided Primary School is a small primary school of 105 children near Chelmsford. It had been judged to be good at its last full inspection in 2008 and since then had had an interim assessment statement in 2012. Headteacher, Maria Rumsey, is supported by her deputy head but as a small school, all staff have important leadership roles. 

The inspection process 

Mr Nicholson and his school, St Joseph’s Primary, were expecting an inspection and had been preparing in readiness. They began at Easter to make sure that everything was up-to-date: “I kept an Ofsted file that I reviewed every two weeks. I made sure that governors and staff had the updates.” 

Pewithall Primary and headteacher Mr Baugh had made some changes to their practices in preparation. He explained: “We did tweak our teaching and change some of the ways we do things, such as the way we record behaviour. By September we were ready and fired up.”

When the phone call did eventually come, it was a welcome relief to our schools. Mr Baugh continued: “The inspection itself was a dynamic and positive experience for us. It was hard work and they asked some searching questions, but they were a kind and considerate team.” 

They were also prepared to share advice: “It wasn’t all one way. We built-up a good dialogue. In our 2009 inspection they just seemed to look at the data. This time they looked in-depth and triangulated the evidence.” 

The timing was good for Mr Baugh. Having been headteacher of Pewithall for two years he was at the right point to gather more advice and suggestions, this time from HMI. 

All our headteachers could see a significant difference in the way that this inspection was conducted in comparison to others they had been involved with. Mr Nicholson felt his role had changed: “In previous inspections my deputy and I had driven the inspection. This time it was spread more evenly between all the leadership team.”

The inspectors wanted to see data and the focus began with how the school looked from the initial evidence on paper. “They drilled down through the data,” explained Mr Nicholson. “They asked searching, specific questions. It was a tough team and a tough inspection.”

Ms Rumsey, at Terling Primary, agreed: “We had done a lot of work on data and it was a good job that we had. The inspection was very data-driven. We had had a dip in results in 2011 and we had to show that we knew exactly what had gone wrong.”

Collecting the evidence

All our schools reported that inspectors were taking their evidence from a number of sources and correlating. They spent a lot of time talking to teachers and pupils. Mr Baugh said: “They wanted to know from the teachers about how they were being supported and what CPD they had. I’d already had lots of conversations with staff and they knew what to expect.”

Mr Nicholson also noted that there was a lot more talking to children and questioning them about the school: “They were asking them quite in-depth questions. Our children are used to talking to adults and being consulted and it wasn’t a problem.”

Lesson observations continued to be a key component. Ms Rumsey was surprised by the amount and duration of the observations: “There were eight observations over two days in our small school. The inspector kept going back into classes even where she had already seen outstanding lessons.”

Written records were used, however, to back-up evidence from other sources. Mr Baugh explained: “I keep a file that includes detailed evaluations and data. It is very analytical and they looked at this as part of their audit trail. They could see that one piece of evidence matched with another. 

“They checked how our Pupil Premium money is spent, even though we only have about 20 children it applies to. We had recorded it carefully, for example when teaching assistant time was being allocated to them.”

The process of sharing the emerging inspection results was handled differently by the different teams. Mr Baugh continued: “They always started with achievement and worked through to leadership and management.

“On the first day they stated that we were a possible outstanding and it was only on the second day that this was confirmed as the judgement. It wasn’t until then that they felt they had sufficient evidence.”

At St Joseph’s Primary there was no indication at the end of the first day and it wasn’t until the final feedback session that Mr Nicholson realised that outstanding would be given for leadership and management: “I don’t think the governors and other members of staff knew even then.”

Ms Rumsey wasn’t feeling optimistic: “At the end of the first day I thought we were coming out as good. The inspector had told me that we were definitely not an requiring improvement school. Requiring improvement hadn’t even entered my head. My school improvement partner told me to carry on fighting for the outstanding.”

Senior leaders and governors

Both Pewithall Primary and St Joseph’s Primary had relatively new senior leaders in place. At St Joseph’s, the deputy headteacher had never experienced an Ofsted as either a teacher or in a senior leadership role. They all needed additional support to make sure they knew what to expect. Mr Nicholson’s senior leadership team was instrumental in the preparation process: “There were four members of the leadership team, myself, deputy, SENCO and key stage 1 co-ordinator. I gave each a role in leading on an area of the four key judgements.” 

This had positive repercussions during the inspection: “During discussions with inspectors, at meetings and during interviews, various members of the senior leadership team were able to take the lead. The strength of delegation and distribution of responsibility came across in the report.”

Middle leadership also came under scrutiny at St. Joseph’s: “Everyone in a primary school is a middle leader really. Some of our subject leaders were very new to the job. We already had plans for them to take up middle leadership courses with the National College. This was the only area of improvement for us.”

A factor all our schools had in common was a strong governing body who were well-prepared and informed. All our headteachers had been careful to ensure that governors knew what to expect. 

The amount of self-evaluation at Terling Primary helped: “Our governors were clued up on everything,” explained Ms Rumsey, “the inspector spoke to the chair and the chair of pupil and curriculum at the end of the first day. We had rehearsed it and gone through the data previously.”

Impressing the inspectors 

A passion for their school is a key feature that all our headteachers have in common and which came out during the inspection. Mr Baugh explained: “In the report they mentioned about the passion of the headteacher and that this can be seen in the leadership throughout the school.”

Ms Rumsey’s passion for the school also came across but she emphasised: “You have to be passionate but you also have to have clout and be able to back it up.”

Passion mustn’t just stop with the headteacher. At St Joseph’s Primary a real determination to raise standards could be tracked throughout the efforts of all members of staff.  

“For example, we had identified maths as an area that needed lifting,” said Mr Nicholson, “and every member of staff took a booster class in their own time after school.”

At Terling Primary, Ms Rumsey is proud of their continued commitment to a broad and balanced curriculum: “We place a lot of emphasis on music and drama and, as a church school, SMSC. This did impress the inspector although at times she seemed to be totally focused on literacy and numeracy.”

Advice to others 

Several of our schools emphasised how important it is not to give up. Mr Baugh urged his staff: “Challenge them if you believe you are right and draw the inspectors’ attention to all the good things we are doing. You won’t get another chance on Monday.” 

Ms Rumsey highlights how important it is to make sure that any blips you have had in the past three years with your data can be explained: “Our inspector wanted us to track back and show the progress that the 2011 cohort had made from reception. My deputy and I stayed behind at the end of the first day to put this together.”

Being open, positive and challenging was an important approach to take. Our headteachers knew their schools and could show this to inspectors, with the evidence to support their comments. Mr Baugh said: “Be welcoming, be positive. Ask them what else they want to see to demonstrate the points you have to make.”

The fact that Ms Rumsey had had a number of external people giving their judgement on the school as outstanding gave her added confidence and determination: “It was exhausting. I could see how you might easily give up and a lot of heads do.”

All our headteachers demonstrated a tenacity throughout. The final judgement reflected the genuine strengths of the schools, but their heads made sure these were displayed to full effect and nothing was left to chance. 

  • Suzanne O’Connell is an education writer and former primary school headteacher.

Further information

Previously published articles in this series can be found online. For our article on the quality of teaching and learning judgement, see http://bit.ly/17a9ob9 and for our piece on the behaviour and safety judgement, go to http://bit.ly/14MaDXn. The final article, focusing on the fourth judgement – the achievement of pupils – will be published in March’s edition, which is out on March 6.

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