Saturday, June 25, 2011

School Inspection - Stand by Your Beds

Being a governor of local school is more often than not, a  personal privilege and great  worthwhile experience. Hopefully the school too benefits from the unique talents and personalities brought to the table by individual governors. Previously I have posted on this blog some of the experiences in  life that would have passed me by had I not been offered the privilege of serving as a governor. The welcome dinner for some pupils and staffs from two schools in Harare comes to mind as an example. I recall then the ambassador from Zimbabwe turning up for the celebration almost unannounced and the dilemma that arose as a consequence about what to say in the after dinner speech.

Obviously being a governor also means that one has to face difficult sometimes very difficult tasks from time to time including those affecting all employers, like staff or finance issues, buildings and maintaining excellence in all matters but overall I have been surprised and pleased at the fact that the privileges far outweigh the burdens.

One task which until very recently had not been my lot to undertake is that of being questioned by school inspectors. Teams of people are required to inspect all schools in England from time to time, on occasion announced, sometimes not. Heads and their staffs really have to work hard for and during inspections to ensure that they and the school are all able to demonstrate that they meet with the inspectors' exacting standards. One requirement is for the Chairman of Governors to meet with the lead inspector and be questioned about his or her knowledge of the school ethos, personnel,  standards  and policies  etc. At the eleventh hour before the latest visit the Chairman was unable to attend so for the first time I was volunteered to be the fall guy in his stead.

The lead inspector  proved to be a very professional and experienced woman who did not flinch from asking some quite searching questions.

She introduced herself and commenced by indicating that she had read governors' meeting minutes so was looking forward to meeting with me. This put me out slightly as sometimes individuals (not excluding me) at such meetings can become outspoken about issues they feel passionately about. However her grilling though hard was not unpleasant. Although some of the questions proved impossible to answer as  I do not know the name of every individual at the school or the minutiae of say the fire prevention policy, they seemed balanced and I thought fair overall.

The headmaster and his team had had three days of such grilling by a team of 3 professionals so I got away lightly with only three quarters of an hour with one. The initial report that followed was a brilliant reflection of the qualities of the school. There were, in fact, two inspections running concurrently. The grading structure from the two inspections is slightly different. The  summary report is in blue typeface below.

The highest grading for EYFS (OFSTED GRADINGS ) is ‘Outstanding’. The highest grading for ISI (ISI GRADINGS) is ‘Excellent’. EARLY YEARS FOUNDATION STAGE INSPECTION (OFSTED) Reception Class Categories: 1. Outstanding 2. Excellent 3. Good 4.Satisfactory 5. Poor.

1. Overall Effectiveness of provision and fulfilment of aims OUTSTANDING

2. Leadership and Management OUTSTANDING

3. Quality of Provision OUTSTANDING

4. Outcomes of the Provision OUTSTANDING

5. Relationships between children and adults OUTSTANDING

ISI PREP SCHOOL INSPECTION. Years 1-6. Categories: 1. Excellent 2. Good 3. Satisfactory 4. Unsatisfactory.

1. Overall Achievement EXCELLENT

2. Standards of Attainment EXCELLENT

3. Standards of Achievement EXCELLENT

4. Breadth of Curriculum EXCELLENT

5. Quality of Teaching EXCELLENT

6. Pupils’ Personal Development EXCELLENT

7. Pupils’ Moral & Spiritual Development EXCELLENT

8. Pastoral Care EXCELLENT

9. Quality of Governance EXCELLENT

10. Quality of Leadership and Management EXCELLENT

11. Quality of Links with Parents EXCELLENT

12. Relationship between Pupils and Staff EXCELLENT

A perfect report.

The Lead Inspector made two additional comments

1. ‘The Strategic and Financial Planning is exceptionally strong’

2. ‘it is very unusual to be graded as outstanding in all areas’
The head and staff at are second to none and deserve this report.

A problem of course for achieving a perfect result is where to go next...but that is a problem which doubtless every school would wish to face.

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