Your first Ofsted inspection as a headteacher should really be something to celebrate. It’s a chance to show your mettle, to demonstrate why you were given the job and to prove any doubters wrong.
But it’s Ofsted. And that’s scary. The temptation, always, is to panic.
This is where Phil Munday, headteacher at Henry Cort Community College in Hampshire, comes in. He says that to get over the panic and to show your school and your skills in the best light, all you need is a nine-point strategy. Four of those points are below, you can find the rest in the 13 March issue of TES.
1. Analyse previous inspections
It’s inevitable that you will have inherited issues that don’t necessarily reflect your methodology or way of thinking, but the best leaders can transform any institution. Demonstrate this by evaluating previous Ofsted reports. Ensure that you convey to inspectors how your clear vision, vigorous strategy and motivated community of students, staff, parents, governors and partners can work to raise standards, deal with any issues and achieve outstanding results.
2. Face your weaknesses
If your school has poor results in English and maths, if attendance levels are declining or if marking is weaker than it should be, you need to be able to explain why. Whatever the hot spot, you must demonstrate that a clear plan is in place to improve standards. Difficult areas can also provide you with an opportunity to show the inspectors that you have an in-depth understanding of the entire school.
3. Make sure everyone is ready
Whatever their role, every member of staff needs to understand what is expected of them. The site team needs to ensure that health and safety matters are up to date and that all facilities are functioning well. Senior staff need to become leadership champions and be assigned specific areas of the school improvement plan to review and develop. It is important that they are ready to share best practice and are confident about how the school will continue to raise standards. Staff with subject-specific responsibility must show an exemplary understanding of the progress that students make by year, by ability group and by key stage, as well as against national and local benchmarks. Select members of the team to review school documents, procedures and policies in line with the latest guidelines, covering everything from bullying, discipline and grievances to the latest research on curriculum standards and inclusion. You also need to make sure senior staff are fully briefed on what to do if you’re absent during an inspection.
4. Prime your governors
During the inspection, it’s crucial that a core group of experienced governors are available to explain how they support and challenge the school. They will be expected to provide an insight into specialist areas, so make sure that sufficient support is in place to enable them to do this and that they have access to key information at all times.