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FROM SPECIAL MEASURES TO OUTSTANDING
On Monday 27th February 2012 I had no idea what was around the corner. I was anticipating a fairly quiet week and looking forward to the school dance club performing at the Cresset theatre on Thursday evening. I went to the show as planned and the children were exceptionally good, a credit to our school. They performed two dances, one about war and another about Romeo and Juliet. I sat there worn out due to what had been happening over the previous two days and knew that the following day would be another very tiring day.
On Tuesday morning I was in a finance meeting about our Little Gems Nursery, after a meeting with our Chair of Governors that takes place each Tuesday morning. The phone rang and we were in the middle of an important discussion so I tried to ignore it but it kept ringing. I gave into it to be told that it was ‘the’ phone call. It was Ofsted and I was informed that we would be inspected on Thursday and Friday of that week. So began a whirlwind that continued until Friday evening at about 4.45pm.
Our Chair of Governors takes up the story as she saw it:
OFSTED 2012 by Helen Bath Chair of Governors.
Tuesday 28 February 2012 – In the middle of a Finance Committee meeting Mrs Wilson opened the office door and said “Mr Erskine it’s THE CALL”. Iain asked her to tell Mrs Kraznicki and then picked up the phone. We drew the meeting to a halt with an agreed date to continue. I came home and pondered on what as a Governing Body we perhaps should have done and hadn’t. But it wasn’t too much of a shock. We were expecting the call and had invited OFSTED to come to visit us in September 2011 – but that was under the OFSTED Framework which existed then. The new Framework was something rather different.
All minutes of meetings were up to date and signed, but did we have sufficient evidence to show that as a team governors with different skills, we fulfil the main purposes of a Governing Body?
These being Strategic Leadership of the school and driving school improvement, supporting, monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of the school and holding senior leaders to account for all aspects of the school’s work – all to be achieved whilst acting as a critical friend.
Thoughts careered through my mind one after the other to question whether we meet the criteria. I know the last Full Governors’ meeting minutes state that whilst we are good at being involved in the school we don’t make notes of visits and of all the things we do – so there is a gap in evidence. Too late now to add to the half a dozen or so sets of notes that we do have. I visit almost every week to catch up with how the school moves forward, but I don’t record each visit. Minutes do show how we have become much better at asking questions to gain evidence. And minutes of Curriculum meetings evidence how we follow different groups of learners and keep up to date with teaching and learning. I know that many case studies are in place to show progress within individual groups of learners. Performance Targets for the head teacher are agreed to drive forward standards and have year on year been successfully achieved.
So what might be missing? Quick email to all governors. I am half way through putting together the skills and interests sheet with governors supplying the information which was requested at our last meeting – so some need a reminder and fingers crossed that details will appear – if not I will use what I know and get it to school by early on Thursday.
Go to bed – what will be will be. We know our school is more than brilliant – offering a place where children want to be and where the impossible happens. Go to sleep thinking of ‘making silk purses from sow’s ears’. I always maintained it couldn’t happen – but at Fulbridge it does. It will all depend on whether or not the Inspectors like what they see and understand what has been achieved and the way in which this has been made possible.
Wednesday – and the planned timetable arrived. Also the awful realisation that as governors we could let down the school and be the reason we don’t reach the highest goal. Everyone in school always works well above the call of duty to achieve the highest possible outcome for children and governors must not let them down. Governors to meet with Lead Inspector at 3.45 pm on Thursday for 30 minutes. News from the office at Thursday lunchtime is – thumbs up – they seem to like the school. And then, Charles, Janet, Stacey and I met the Inspector. Maybe 4 people were too many, as we all seemed to answer the same question – but at least we agreed. Too long was spent on the description of the community and area and on the very few negative responses to the questionnaire sent to parents – which Stacey managed to turn into a positive response re relationships with a majority of parents. Pressure of time was an issue and I know we weren’t asked many of the questions which needed to be covered. So much so that judging our knowledge of standards was given very little time and a quick reassurance about “Safeguarding” brought the interview to a close.
Oh no! My mind was in turmoil. My worst fears were to be realised – we had let the school down. I did manage to push it all to the back of my mind by reading a Swedish murder mystery. Again – what will be will be. And if we are “Good” with outstanding features then that will be fine. Hold onto that thought. Not long until 4.00 pm on Friday and feedback. What relief – Iain is smiling hugely. Charlotte says she was able to show evidence to answer the questions that didn’t get posed at the governors’ interview – phew!
And then the absolute relief and delight – the feedback was exceptionally good but there was the frustration of being sworn to secrecy. This was really hard as the staff were all waiting to be told. I hope we gave them the reason why they had to be patient and also strong enough hints for them all to go home really proud and happy. We all cheered to Jill’s announcement – “fantastic Fulbridge”. Huge Congratulations to everyone and thanks to a team who understood what we are about.
On Tuesday, with other staff, I was talking to trainee teacher students from Bedford University about the different roles in a school. I went ahead with this presentation despite the phone call and then at 1.00pm the lead inspector phoned and a telephone conversation lasting about an hour and a half followed. Most of the conversation was about organisational issues to do with the inspection and details about the school that will inform the inspection. The inspector listed things like timetables, our Self-Evaluation Form and School Development Plan that she would need emailing to her that afternoon so that she could start her pre-inspection analysis. That analysis would result in her writing a pre-inspection briefing that she would write and email to me the following day so that we could see what the inspection team would be focusing on. With that she would send an outline timetable of the two days. Once the phone call was over we gathered all the information and after school we briefed the staff; where had the day gone? (It was not going to be the last time over the next few days that I would see hours disappear and be left wondering where they had gone).
That evening we left school about 7.00pm. We had prepared all the paperwork in advance as we had anticipated that an inspection would be happening at some point as we were last inspected three years ago. Anything that was required by the inspector was not a surprise; we had all the needed information in our Leadership dropbox. Most of Tuesday after school was based around sending information to the inspector and communicating with her by email. Staff had to submit up-to-date timetables for the inspection team and I had to send them off. In the end I was unable to do this until the following morning as two staff were part-time and we had been unable to contact one of them until she arrived at school on the Wednesday morning. Tuesday was a sleepless night as there were so many things on my mind.
We aspired to achieve a judgment of outstanding, it was very important to us to achieve this as 10 years previously I had taken on Fulbridge Junior School when it was six months into Special Measures after having failed an Ofsted Inspection in 2001. I knew that if we were to secure outstanding for achievement we could go on to achieve outstanding for the other areas. We knew that we had to prove that we were making “rapid progress for all groups of learners.” Maths results are above national averages and the rate of progress the children make is exceptionally good but although the progress we make with the children is very good in English as well, we are around or just below national averages. Children arrive in our Reception classes well below the national average, therefore we could prove that good to outstanding progress had been made in the seven years they attended our school. On top of that not far off half the children that join our school in Reception have left by the time they get to Year 6 and almost 40% of the new arrival children who are in our school, mostly from Eastern Europe, have been in the country for less than two years. The pre-inspection briefing had highlighted the issue of why our English results were not as good as our maths results. We had plenty of evidence to support our claim to being outstanding and over the two days we had to flush out more evidence and as it happened do further analysis to certain groups of children to confirm what we essentially knew already. We had to prove it to the inspectors. The inspection was to be thorough and challenging and we were to find that our Lead Inspector was not going to leave one stone unturned. I am sure we must all have lost weight over the two days as it was not only to be mentally but also physically challenging as we chased down certain pieces of evidence all over school.
Wednesday morning, after a four-mile run, a shower and breakfast I arrived in school by 6.45am. The day was spent preparing for the inspection and speaking to staff, checking everyone was ok, smiling a lot and cracking plenty of my awful jokes that often consist of some sort of pun on something – the worrying thing is how these jokes come into my mind in the first place! The reality was that I was excited about the visit, looking forward to it. We had self-assessed ourselves as on the cusp of outstanding after two inspections that had judged us as satisfactory, to get outstanding we would have to have jumped two Ofsted grades in three years. In the current climate when each threshold was even harder to cross, you could say we would be crossing three as everyone said the goal posts had been moved and to get ‘good’ would be like getting outstanding in the previous Ofsted regime. The nervousness was whether we could achieve Ofsted’s highest grading over the next two days but it was also what was so exciting. We have the best combination of staff we have ever had, the best SATs results we have ever had over a period of 4 years and a wonderful set of children that are now better behaved that any group we have ever had – all 700 of them.
All round school on Wednesday staff were preparing their classrooms for the coming inspection. For me another phone call from the Lead Inspector lasted about an hour. Following this the pre-inspection briefing arrived by email, a document that highlighted what they wanted to focus the inspection on. I shared this with the Deputy Head and the Team Leaders and later with the staff after school. The Site Manager had the school looking wonderful, he and the cleaners were pulling together as much as any of the staff. This was another day in which staff were leaving late, at about 7.30pm. Another night that was hard to get off to sleep, followed by yet another very early morning.
Everything was set and we awaited the arrival of the inspectors. They arrived around 8.00am and we showed them to the Learning Mentor’s room, which would act as their base. This room usually hosts children with emotional, social or behavioural issues and as we were hoping to get a good team of inspectors, we had to hope they would not feel too at home in this room!
We got off to a good start as one of the inspectors drove her car over the low level wall at the front of school to the point where the front two wheels were on the footpath and the back two higher up in the car park. Graham the site manager, wove his magic with some pieces of wood and managed to undo the situation without any damage to the car.
A whistle-stop tour of the school was followed by the inspectors meeting the staff in the staff room. First impressions were very positive as had been my phone calls, the inspectors were friendly and said that an inspection should be all about the children and we should see it as an opportunity to work together to the benefit of the children and celebrate what the school does well as well as find issues that can help us improve even further as a school. Perhaps we should have put them in a G&T room not the LM room?
Early on I presented the inspector who was looking at behaviour and safeguarding a file full of appropriate policies and risk assessments and he went into the school office to look at our single central record with Jill Sherwood our Office Manager. I will let her tell that part of the story:
‘ORRIBLE’ OFSTED AND THE OFFICE!
A TALE OF TWO PARTS by Jill Sherwood, Office Manager
Mr Erskine explained that the OFSTED inspector would come to the office to speak to me about the Single Central Record sometime during Thursday morning. I was anxious, as although senior management and teachers would have a much more stressful path during the next two days, I did not want my small part in things to let the school down.
The inspector arrived early in the morning, the office was still busy with parents paying for lunches, trips and the odd pupil arriving late etc. The inspector asked if I would prefer him to return later when it was quieter. I explained that on a Thursday morning the children centre hosts a baby clinic and shortly the foyer would be full of prams, pushchairs and crying babies who did not like being undressed to be weighed! He found this most amusing and said that we had better just get started then!
The inspector went through the SCR with me asking a number of questions – he seemed happy with what he saw, however he did make a couple of suggestions for further improvement. He asked me about backing-up, I explained that this was done as part of the overall back-up on disc and that as the SCR was my Holy Grail I confessed to having a memory stick as well. He then asked about the storage of the discs overnight, I said that I had been advised by the LA technician to take them home with me and pointed to them in my shopping bag. He agreed that taking them home was best. Howeve, he asked if I ever called at Tesco on my way home, leaving the discs in the bag in my car, as I must be aware that my car could be broken into or even stolen. I told him that this would NEVER happen as I always shop at Waitrose! (No, only joking about Waitrose, but the rest is true!)
The inspector then asked to speak to Mrs Wilson about attendance. He asked her to accompany him to the ‘Fulbridge Ofsted Office’ – Learning Mentor room, for their conversation! So …. if Mrs Wilson does not spill the beans, then only Bella and Jazz, Mrs Brown’s gerbils will ever know what took place!
I was given their timetable for the day so that I could arrange when the Team Leaders, the Deputy Head and myself could do joint observations with the inspectors. We all got the opportunity to do this and we were under pressure to ensure that we came to the same judgment as the inspector to show that our judgments throughout the year were accurate. This proved to be the case for all of us. The good news, as the day progressed, was that the lessons were all being judged either good or outstanding.
I had an update mid-morning with the Lead Inspector and everything seemed to be going well. Later there were further meetings after school. I met to discuss how we monitor teaching and learning, NQT’s and support staff met to discuss CPD opportunities and other issues and Charlotte, the Deputy Head met to discuss SEN issues. The following morning Charlotte would meet with the Lead Inspector to discuss standards and achievement, as assessment coordinator, and that would prove to be a key meeting.
After school Wednesday saw the Team Leaders as well as the Literacy and Numeracy coordinators meeting with an inspector. Louise, the EAL coordinator also met to discuss issues to do with our European and Pakistani heritage children. During the day issues such as attendance and punctuality were investigated as were safeguarding issues, particularly the single central record. I also provided them with examples of safeguarding policies and risk assessments. Interestingly they broke down our attendance records by ethnicity and they had someone in to analyse our parent, staff and pupil questionnaires. They also broke down the questionnaires by phase of school to see if behaviour issues were more prevalent in one phase of school than another.
The questionnaires became an excellent support for us as an amazing 97 or 98% of responses were either in the agree or strongly agree columns as opposed to the disagree or strongly disagree columns. They have to chase up any issues that were mentioned in the questionnaires and they did this by interviewing parents on the playground and speaking to children. They also had to prove that their findings could be proved to have taken place over time. It was not simply about the two days that they were in. As a result we had to uncover archived records on behaviour to show that the good behaviour of the children has been the case for the previous three to four years. We did this and we also had records to show that teaching had been good or outstanding over a sustained period of time. This is appropriate as it would be unfair to judge any school on just the two days that the inspectors were in. This seemed to be a positive difference compared to previous inspections.
So, what was it like for the staff in the class rooms whilst I was dealing with the day and all the issues I was having to address? Here are some accounts by the staff:
‘It would have been outstanding if it wasn’t for Louise’ by Louise Pike, Year 4 Teacher
The week started like any other week. We had no concept of the whirlwind, which was about to hit! On Tuesday morning, just as I was heading out of my classroom for a meeting with visitors from Cambridge University, I bumped into Iain, the Head. ’Oh are they here?’ I innocently asked, assuming Iain had brought the visitors to me. ‘No, they give us two days notice, they will be here on Thursday.’ I laughed in reply, assuming this was a joke. It turns out it wasn’t. That phone call we had all been waiting, with baited breath for, had finally arrived.
In the next five minutes I must have gone through every emotion possible! Relief, that finally we actually had a date, panic, at the thoughts of what needed to be done and determination, that Osfted would see just what a fantastic school they were coming to visit. So I got straight to it and did the one thing that always calms me down and makes me feel in control…I wrote a list!
As the day went on, the list seemed to get longer and longer. As soon as something was crossed off, I’d think of another thing to add. I was immediately struck by the amazing support team around me and how every single member of staff was willing to go above and beyond to prepare for the big day and help each other.
The rest of the time leading up to Thursday was spent working, thinking and even dreaming about Osfted, and my to-do list was never far from sight. By 9:30pm on Wednesday evening I had finally ticked everything off and knew I was as ready as I ever would be. I felt a combination of anxiety and excitement as I thought about what would await me the following day. My first Osfted, I had no idea what to expect.
One thing that I look back and laugh at was my ability to continuously wake up through the night, think of something I needed to do in the morning, and then go back to sleep…dreaming of Osfted of course! I am also amazed by my ability to wake up and jump straight out of bed as soon as my alarm went off…a far cry from my usual ‘hit the snooze button’! Out of the house, no traffic on the roads (a definite benefit of being an early riser) and into school early to make those final preparations.
At 8:25 am we were called into the staff room to meet the Osfted team. Walking into the room, I glanced around at a lot of nervous, anxious faces, no doubt mirrored in mine. As the team introduced themselves, the realisation that this was actually happening, that Ofsted was here, hit me. I have never felt so sick with nerves! Relieved to get back to the classroom, my ‘safe zone’, I was pleased to greet the children and see them come into school relaxed, as if it was any other day. At this point I knew I had to refocus my thoughts, concentrate on the children and my teaching and do my best to ignore everything else that was going on around school. Denial basically.
This was easier said than done. Every time the door opened, whenever a child came back from the toilet, every time an adult went in or out of the room, I felt absolute panic run through my veins. All morning I waited. And waited. When would they come? Before lunch I was teaching literacy, and was convinced someone would come in. I was so pleased with the lesson, I felt like running into the corridor and saying ‘someone, please come and observe me…this is going so well!’ But alas, no one appeared and the wait continued.
Running on empty, or maybe just adrenalin, I prepared for the afternoon through lunchtime. Finally, the moment came. Walking through the door was a gentleman with a clipboard. He sat down at the back of the room and all I could think was ‘you’re not sitting in the right place…there is a green chair with a folder on it. It took me ages to put together, go and look at it!’ He never did!
After about 20 minutes he left. Relief. It was done, at least for today. I will never forget just how proud I was of my class, through that day, and especially in those 20 minutes. They knew how important it was to show off Shelley Class to be the best and they loved competition – I had briefed them that they were competing with the other Year 4 classes! They were phenomenal, and in those few minutes they made up for all those times when they drive me crazy! They knew what this meant to me and they completely pulled it out of the bag.
About 20 minutes later, I had to leave my class for a meeting about EAL with one of the inspectors. In the morning one of the female inspectors had said that she would be holding the EAL meeting, so I felt slightly uneasy by the fact that the gentleman who had just observed me was, in fact, now holding the meeting with me.
As I nervously sat down, I was politely asked to explain the EAL policy and the different procedures we have implemented. At the point that he asked me if I was on the Senior Management Team I had a feeling that this meeting was going to go beyond me! I shared an example of our class EAL folder. As I was quizzed about progression, attainment, percentages, Year 6 SATs results, ILPs, IEPs, assessment and reviews, I sat panicking and suddenly felt completely underprepared. ‘I am new to the role’, ‘I have only been at Fulbridge since last January’, ‘Can I direct you to Charlotte for that answer?’, ‘I am currently more the facilitator for EAL’, all lines that I tried to use. At that point the gentleman remarked on the fact that we only had 15 minutes left but we would keep going until someone disturbed us, I knew there was no escape. I remember glancing at his wrist watch: 3:02pm. Why was the time going so slowly? Would I ever return to the safety of Year 4? As time went on, there was the realisation that, for our school, so much hung on EAL. All that was going through my head was an image of Iain giving a post Osfted briefing in the staff room and saying ‘it would have been outstanding if it wasn’t for Louise’!
As I had just been observed by the said gentleman, again and again he used my class as an example of how the issues associated with teaching EAL children wasn’t evident in the classroom. I secretly smiled to myself when I responded to this by saying that that was exactly what I would want someone coming in to observe me to see, because that meant I was seeing to the individual needs of my children. That ended that conversation. Fulbridge 1, Osfted 0.
One thing I discovered through the interrogation, was that under immense pressure and perhaps in sheer panic, I quickly developed the skills of a politician and twisted the questions to only give the answers that I wanted to give. Anyway, somehow I made it through and apparently hadn’t made any massive mistakes. My first face to face encounter with an Osfted inspector completed. Phew!
The, second day, Friday passed fairly quietly. I chuckled to myself at the number of children in the Well Done Assembly receiving bookmarks and merit certificates. For a week when we had all been under immense pressure, we had all got our certificate requests in on time! Whilst at swimming, I was told that Osfted were in Year 4 and felt a combination of relief that I wasn’t there and disappointment, as I actually wanted someone to come and watch my thoroughly prepared literacy lesson. On the coach journey back to school, I thought through every step of my forthcoming lesson…just in case. When we got off the coach, I lined the children up by the wall on Wilberforce Road and briefed them on what I expected of them and reminded them of the importance of giving a good impression to the visitors. I felt immensely proud of them as they walked into school in single file and in absolute silence. It was at that moment that I realised how much this meant to the children as well. What a wonderful thing to realise. As it turned out, we escaped Round 2 and no one popped in to see us.
The most astounding realisation I had throughout the whole Osfted madness, was just how much it meant to every single person in our school, including the children. I could not have been prouder of each child in my class, they could not have tried harder to show the inspectors just what a fantastic school Fulbridge is and how much they enjoy being a part of it. To me, it felt like the whole school was one big team with a common goal and I felt so lucky to be part of a team of staff who under immense pressure and stress rallied round to support one another and demonstrated great patience, kindness and empathy. If that’s not outstanding, I don’t know what is!
Could you ever be prepared for Ofsted? By Hafissa Sajjad, Year 3 teacher.
When I was first informed that we had received the ‘phone call’ on Tuesday, initially, I was surprisingly calm. We had anticipated the visit from Ofsted would be happening soon so I thought I would be ready for it.
The feeling of calm gradually changed, however, as one of the main differences I noticed on that day was that when I entered the staff room at lunch time-it was empty.
My guess was that everyone was now busy at this point, organising and discussing their plans on how to make sure they were on point for the day. It was then I started to think maybe I was probably a bit too calm about the whole situation.
I had seen my team leader earlier and we had agreed to meet after school to go over our planning and lessons to ensure they were delivered to the best possible standard.
As the day went on and I talked to other teachers about the inspection, I began to feel more and more uneasy about it. I had begun to realise the significance of this inspection on the school, and the feeling of not knowing exactly what and how I was teaching made me feel like I was not in control.
I wanted the rest of the teaching day on Tuesday to pass as quickly as possible so I could sit with my colleagues and talk through exactly what we were going to teach, and what if anything, was going to be altered.
During our meeting after school, my colleagues and I decided to go through each part of our Numeracy and Literacy lessons. We had agreed to modify some activities which required making different resources and amending the planning accordingly. This was when the feeling of panic set in because I realised that, not only was the planning incomplete due to changes in activities, but resources needed to be made and also the support staff were to be informed about their role in each lesson.
Usually before an observation, I prefer to go through the planning and decide what my teaching approach for the lesson would be. Since we hadn’t yet completed the planning or made any resources, I felt like I didn’t even know what I was going to teach, let alone how I was going to teach it.
It would have been ideal if we as a team could have completed the planning and resources on that Tuesday evening. This way I would have felt more in control and more confident in what was going to happen during the two days. However as we could not stay at school overnight, we had to do as much as we could do and leave the rest for the following day.
At home that evening, I felt there was not a lot more I could do as a lot of the resources and agreements were to be made the following day. A tension headache set in that evening, which happened to last for the next three days as I knew I didn’t just have one or two lessons to think about- I had a whole two days worth to perfect.
The following day was also very tense. I felt as if a whole day just preparing for Ofsted would have been ideal! But things had to carry on as normal and I found it extremely difficult to teach with Ofsted, observations and planning on my mind. I noticed I probably had less patience than usual with the children- however I did realise that this day’s teaching would be very useful to me as it would inform my teaching for the next day- the day of possible observations.
Throughout the day, I was aware I still had to inform my support staff about what resources needed to be prepared and what was going to be taught over the two inspected days. Things that normally would be sorted naturally as the day went on felt more urgent and important and I felt like they needed to be done straight away. For example, any resources that needed to be created would normally be prepared after school or in the morning but I felt like they needed to be done immediately so I had a sense of control and organisation. I felt everything needed to be sorted straight away before the end of the day so that the evening could be used for perfecting what had been done and going through final details.
We spent the lunch time and after school completing and agreeing on what was going to be taught. When that was finally done, I spent the rest of after school organising the lessons.
The constant panic and headache remained through the day. At times, I would calm myself thinking I would just be normal and it would all be ok, other times I would panic and think nerves would get the better of me and I would not deliver the best that I am capable of.
During Wednesday evening, I analysed my PowerPoint presentations and added minor details incase I would forget whilst delivering the lesson. The presentations were ridiculously detailed as a back up incase my mind went blank whilst teaching.
I remember being constantly tense- I woke at 4am thinking about each lesson and what questions I would use in the lessons.
On the first day of the inspection, I arrived at school significantly earlier than I usually do, organised the resources, went over things in my head until I felt like there was nothing more I could do.
When the inspectors arrived and introduced themselves, I remember thinking that they actually seemed quite friendly and maybe it wouldn’t be as terrifying as I had anticipated.
However, the fact that they were still ‘Ofsted’ and the importance and significance of these two days for the school still remained on my mind.
After the initial introduction at the beginning of the day, I had never felt more sick and nervous in my life. I tried to think of them as normal people coming into observe but I could not seem to calm myself down. This was the worst time for me over the two days. Every time someone came through the door, or even if the door moved slightly, I felt myself tensing up. At one point, Dawn from the office came in to ask me a question, and I stared at her blankly as I felt I had just had a mini heart attack as she walked through the door- thinking it was ‘them’.
When the whole day passed, and I had not been visited- I did feel a sense of disappointment. This was because I had felt so tense and on edge throughout the day expecting them to visit at any moment. Also because I felt I had used so much energy and my best tricks and they hadn’t been seen! (Even the children had noticed the change in my energy levels). On reflection, although I would have preferred them to observe me on the first day as it would have given me a sense of relief, I did feel ready and calmer on the second day and I knew I was definitely going to be seen at some point throughout the day.
On Friday, I had managed to calm down slightly. I felt like I had reached the peak of my tension on the Thursday and probably couldn’t go beyond that.
I was ready for them to come in at anytime on Friday, so was not surprised when they came in during my first lesson, Numeracy. Although I was extremely nervous, I don’t think it was as intense as the Thursday. I had got used to the idea of them being around.
I felt like it went well and felt a tremendous sense of relief when it was all over. In spite of this, the feeling of having lots of energy and being on a high did not go away until a few days later.
Looking back at the experience, although it was terrifying, it was also a very exciting and satisfying experience. Everyone was facing the same challenges and working to achieve the best possible outcome for the school. The support that colleagues gave each other was immense and made the whole experience a whole lot easier.
Ofsted, a TA’s perspective by Michelle Collins
When I arrived at work on February 28th I thought that my biggest worry would be giving a talk to 23 PGCE students.
My talk went well (an added bonus being that nobody had noticed that I was wearing my name badge upside down). I left thinking that the scariest part of my week was over. However, my relief was short lived. Minutes later Iain, our Head, popped into Keats class to say that, at last, we had received ‘the call’.
My initial emotion was not dread; but rather anticipation. Now we could show off how fantastic our school is. Yes, the thought of observations, gradings and judgements was intimidating, but also it was a great opportunity to receive the recognition we deserve.
We were plunged into a whirlpool of plans, lists and preparations. I was so pleased that in the previous week I’d had an attack of cleaning fever and the classroom was already spotless and well organised. My preparations were mainly focused on putting together the class pack and a case study (which I had yet to start). It is probably fair to say that I am a technophobe. But thanks to the Office Angels I managed to master the photocopier and get the necessary paperwork together. The only thing left at the end of the day was marking and I decided to take it home. Later, much later, I fell into restless sleep: my dreams full of grey suits and clipboards.
The next morning at 8.25 we met our inspection team. My initial impressions were encouraging. The lead Inspector, Sarah Warboys, seemed very positive and approachable. She even joked that we shouldn’t worry; she was guaranteed to speak to the ‘wrong’ pupil and pick up the ‘wrong’ exercise book. My spirits rose. Surely she was going to love Fulbridge?
Having met the inspectors and established that they were not ogres, I made the walk back to Keats with a spring in my step. Now to welcome the children in and get on with the day. It should have been business as usual, although it is hard to keep your eye from straying to the door. Anticipating their arrival in your classroom is perhaps the worst bit of the day; the possibility that they will knock on the door at the most inopportune moment. On the other hand there might be the disappointment of producing a fantastic lesson which they do not come to watch. Hannah and I had confidence that our lovely class were bound to shine and so it proved.
Our first lesson after break was ICT. I went ahead to the ICT suite to prepare some resources and found an inspector waiting in the dark, with his back turned. Now at this point I panicked a little. Quietly I put down my pile of books and tiptoed back out. Did he spot me? I hope not! I hared back to the classroom to tell Hannah. I need not have worried. Hannah and the children had a terrific ICT lesson. The pupils were switched on, eager to impress. And I managed not to break any of the PCs!
One of the best parts of my Ofsted experience was hearing the lovely comments shared with Hannah during her feedback for this lesson. She was told our observation had set the tone for the rest of our inspector’s day and we were complimented on our relationship with the pupils. Scary though it may be to have someone watching you work, the pride of knowing that you are doing a good job is wonderful.
My next brush with the inspectors was entirely voluntary: I had agreed to meet one of them along with a number of HLTAs, TAs and NQTs. This proved to be a positive experience. His questioning focused on professional development. As we shared our experiences with him I realised how many opportunities we have been given and how valued we are by this school. In fact the inspector, Andrew, commented that often support staff whom he met were critical of their schools. I would like to think that we were a pleasant change for him. Rather than feeling like an inquisition, the meeting felt like a relaxed chat.
Another restless night passed: despite being very tired my brain refused to switch off. I got up early, keen to get on with the day. I must confess to some anxiety that the inspectors would come and watch a dance lesson. I can’t dance, especially not when the task is to emulate a hungry lioness stalking her prey. That is best left to the children. But our dancing went uninterrupted. They chose to make their second visit as the children were changing. To give them their due, Keats were changed and seated on the carpet in record time. And the lesson they were observing was literacy. Hooray! Hannah delivered a superb lesson the children were engaged and produced some excellent writing. Most pleasing of all was that this lesson was representative of what we do – day in, day out – and the inspectors got a really accurate picture of the learning in Keats class. I was very proud.
Once it was over, I was left with a strange restlessness. All of my stored nervous energy was now surplus to requirement. And I could see colleagues similarly start to unwind. We are all part of a large school. It is possible to miss the opportunity to speak to staff from other phases. But the team spirit and togetherness displayed during those two days was heartwarming. Everyone played their part: Governors, senior management, teachers, support staff and of course the most important people of all, the children. I hope the inspectors were impressed by what they saw. Fulbridge is more than just a school, it is a family and a vital part of the community in which I live. I am proud to work here and very proud of our fantastic staff and pupils. Although it is wonderful to have visitors praise our school, we do not need their approval. The many achievements of our pupils speak volumes.’
Following the after school meetings Charlotte and I joined all the inspectors to be part of their meeting to discuss their findings from the day, a meeting that would end around 6.00pm. The team looked at all the criteria by which we are judged, quality of teaching and learning, safeguarding and behaviour, standards and achievement, Leadership and Management and capacity to improve. After discussion the Lead Inspector concluded by saying that they must make summary judgments against all the criteria. Finally she asked, ‘Does this school need Special Measures?’ Charlotte gasped with horror at the question and the Lead Inspector explained that protocol dictated that it must be asked. There was an instant ‘no.’ Did the school need ‘Notice to Improve?’ Another unanimous no was recorded and then an inconclusive discussion about good or outstanding ensued. These discussions would set the agenda for the following day, something the Lead Inspector would go away and decide that evening. Our issue was still whether the value-added that our children make, which is highly significant would balance out the fact that in English our results were not always above national average standards. Pessimistically I was convinced we were heading towards a good with outstanding features judgment.
From this meeting my wife and I went to straight to watch our dance club perform magnificently at the Cresset theatre and it is now perhaps obvious why we were feeling tired, but the quality of the dance certainly kept us awake.
The following morning, after an early arrival, began with a brief meeting and requests for certain information. I began the day being watched in a school celebration assembly, which I later learnt had impressed the inspector. The children sang beautifully and were immaculately behaved. Further lesson observations were undertaken and the inspectors seemed to be everywhere and were asking for more and more information and evidence. I led two more assemblies before break time and another later at the end of the morning. In between them I taught two PE lessons with two Year 3 classes. Charlotte popped in to say that everything was going well and that further outstanding lessons had been observed, including one by my wife who is an HLTA in the school and something of a maths specialist. Were they going for a ‘good’ judgment or were they substantiating an ‘outstanding’ judgment, Charlotte thought it was the latter. It is perhaps appropriate at this point to see the inspection from Charlotte, the Deputy Head’s view as her role in this inspection was as central as mine. Charlotte started in the school as an NQT and I promoted her until she became Deputy Head, hopefully when I retire she will succeed me as Head, so her view and the impact she makes to our school is significant:
A Long Journey by Charlotte Krzanicki, Deputy Head:
My Ofsted experience started way back in September. We knew we were due an inspection so I began creating folders of evidence to support all the fantastic work we had been doing over the last several years. I also read the Ofsted inspection schedule and any other supporting document to help me understand the new process and what was expected.
Fast forward to the new year, a new inspection framework came with a health warning that Outstanding was even harder to achieve. I knew as a school we were in a strong position to achieve good without any effort, but when you realise you are on the cusp of or firmly outstanding in some areas the drive and determination kicks in and I wanted to pursue Outstanding. I began to dread Tuesday’s and Thursday’s in case we received THE phone call.
When the phone call finally came we were as usual extremely busy with PGCE students to present to, Cambridge Review inspections to contribute to and a Governors finance meeting was in full swing, a typical day at Fulbridge. To my surprise I was not terrified but relieved and excited! Relieved as we had been waiting so long and excited because I knew we were going to do well. The next 2 days were a whirlwind of activity and in true Fulbridge fashion everyone rallied around and showed what a true team we are.
Thursday morning arrived and we greeted the inspectors and showed them to their room, I immediately warmed to them all and felt unusually relaxed. Sarah’s opening speech to the staff set the atmosphere for the rest of the inspection, friendly, supportive but thorough.
After the initial conversation I joined her in a lesson observation which went very well, we discussed the grading and both agreed the same outcome, I felt at ease doing this as I am confident in my lesson gradings through years of experience in developing teaching and learning. The rest of the morning however was nerve racking, it always is as a deputy because you see inspectors move in and out of classes with clip boards, you see the staff looking nervous and uncomfortable trying to teach with one eye on the door checking to see if anyone is coming. I truly feel for all the staff during these moments and want to hug each one in turn to support them.
Sarah kept Iain and I fully informed throughout the day so I knew things were going well. My SEN conversation went extremely well, I only had 25 minutes to tell them about how inclusive we are, they had already seen it with their own eyes and didn’t need convincing that Fulbridge care deeply about the children regardless of their background. At the end of the meeting I wouldn’t let them out my office saying I had so much more to tell them! Looking back now they must have thought I was slightly mad, they kindly told me to bullet point any other information I felt I had missed, I took the opportunity that night and handed them an essay the next day!
Leaving my home Friday morning my husband told me that whatever grading we achieve would be good and well deserved, I told him I wouldn’t be coming home unless we were Outstanding, I love a challenge.
In the back of my mind I knew that in order to secure Outstanding for achievement we had to prove that we were making “rapid progress for all groups of learners”, if we could prove that, I knew we would be Outstanding in all other areas. I had created a very detailed analysis of our attainment and progress dating back to 2007. This was shared and discussed in great depth with Sarah the lead inspector on Friday morning, it was clear evidence that although our attainment was just below national averages, our children on entry come into reception well below, therefore good to outstanding progress had been made. I also knew the clause in the Ofsted framework that suggested in exceptional circumstances if our attainment was below the national average but we could prove rapid progress we could secure outstanding, with so many new arrival families, I believed this constituted an exceptional circumstance.
The rest of Friday was very hectic, I just remember running up and down the corridors collecting books, planning anything they wanted. I realised that Sarah spent her last hour revisiting outstanding teachers and I knew then she was trying to secure as much evidence as possible to get us the grading we so deserved. The final crunch came when we had to prove a good percentage of children had arrived in the UK less than two years before they took their year six SAT’s, again running frantically to year six the team rallied together and we highlighted 36% of children.
I arrived at the feedback meeting hot and exhausted knowing that we had to secure outstanding for achievement. The first 15 minutes were excruciating but as soon as the team agreed in principal that achievement was outstanding I knew we were home and dry. After that every area came in outstanding one after the other until Sarah finally said “well folks I think we have an Outstanding School”. I looked at Iain, he looked at me and we both cried, even an inspector shed a tear, I couldn’t contain myself so I leapt up and hugged Iain feeling so proud of the school, staff and pupils.
We left the meeting shell shocked, we returned later with the team leaders and our Chair of Governors Helen who is always so supportive of the school. Everyone one was delighted with the outcome and everyone deserves the credit for the hardworking ethos that drives Fulbridge School.
As for myself, people often look at me in amazement when I say that I have been at the school since an NQT, but during my time I have not only progressed in my career but I have achieved many other things in my personal life and with every experience I have been well supported and loved by all of the many friends I have at Fulbridge, so to work hard and contribute to an amazing place is a privilege and a passion that is deeply embedded in me. Helping children in less fortunate circumstance is rewarding and makes Fulbridge the Oasis it is.
I now breathe a sigh of relief as the burden of an impending Ofsted rises from my shoulders but I know we will continue to thrive and develop over the next few years as after all Sarah the lead inspector said “Outstanding isn’t perfect”.
When the Lead Inspector had first introduced herself to me on the phone and later to the staff on the first morning, she was very clear that the most important people in any school are the children and that is whom the inspection was really all about. We all thought that was an entirely appropriate way to introduce herself to us. So this account would not be complete without the views of the children on the inspection process:
“ The inspectors came to me and said, ‘What are you learning about?’ I said alternitiv spelling of the ee and ai grafeen.” (Emmanuel Shodimu, Year 1)
“ I thought the visitors were really friendly and kind, they liked to hear all about our thoughts and feelings about our school. Some came to our class room, others asked us questions about what we were doing; other visitors would sit in a quiet area and talk about about activities and clubs. The visitors told us that we have an amazing, incredible school and that we all care and look out for each other. All the students in our school love our school and care about the community.” (Taybah Butt, Year 4)
“The inspectors had come! Knock, knock, knock!!! Mr Erskine, the Headteacher, was talking to the office lady and in the blink of an eye, they had marched in. Mr Erskine had a nervous face. What should he do? What should he say? Why were they here? Mr Erskine did not know what to do! The inspectors told him that they wanted to see the school.” (Zayna Mahmood, Year 4)
“The inspector who looked smart, could see how well we were doing. During ICT one of the inspectors came in and asked me a question and that question was, ‘What do you think this school is like?’ My answer was that the children were very well behaved in this school. Some children were speechless, others were blabbering asking questions and everything.” (Junayd, Year 4)
“ A woman walked over to us: straight away we knew it was one of the inspectors (Ofsted). They looked both serious and formal. They began to ask us many questions: ‘What is this book about? Why are you split up into boys and girls? What activities do you do on the ipad?’ We talked about our lessons and how much we enjoyed them. She was incredibly interested in what we had to say. She was still curious about why girls and boys were split up and we answered that we think it helps us learn.” (Tanisha, Katie, Amie and Gemma: Year 6)
“It was break time, me and my friend were playing together. Suddenly our Head Teacher, Mr I Erskine came up with a brilliant idea, about going to speak to the Ofsred Inspectors. Once we stepped into the little group room, the inspector was both serious and intelligent. We talked about all the good things that make our school important. We talked about all the clubs we have, how great it is that we have 10 ipads in each class and the unforgettable experiences we have as part of our curriculum.” (Vanessa and Ellie, Year 6)
“When the Ofsted person came to our class we did not look at them because they had a very, very hard job to see if our school is a very good school or not, but it is a very good school. When the Ofsted person went into the corridor he told Mrs Krzanicki that if a person comes to Fulbridge School they will have the best day of their life.” (Daniyal – Year 4)
“I was really scared because I had to talk to the Ofsted Inspector about behavior at break time. When I went it was really terrifying and I got shy. Then I realized you have to be brave so I talked to the inspectors about behavior and how our school is good. It was really interesting, after all!” (Mahfuza Fariha, Year 3)
“Frightened, terrified, scared, when Ofsted came by body was shivering, I think my teacher thought she was going to get murdered by them!” (Adam Khan Year 3)
“The inspectors were very nice people. As soon as they walked in I was scared and we were all on our best behavior. I really wanted our school to be the best because we have got so much art over every wall and we do lots of exciting activities.” (Rumaisah Komal, Year 3)
“As soon as I heard the news that the Ofsted people were going to come, I felt excited, excited because I knew that they would really like this school. The more I thought about it the more happy I got. Relieved, I quickly and cheerfully said to my teacher, ‘You are doing so many things for the Ofsted people in such a rush, why don’t you calm down?’ My teacher smiled and giggled. When the Ofsted people arrived I was on my best behavior because I wanted to impress my friendly, helpful teacher. Worried, I didn’t know what they would say about our amazing, creative school.” (Isha Ahmed, Year 4)
In our school the Team Leaders are very important people, due to the size of the school and our distributed leadership model. At break time my son Ben, Upper School Team Leader, and I found a novel way to address an issue that one of the inspectors had raised. He was investigating the issue of why our English results were not always above national averages, why couldn’t we get consistently over 85% or 90% Level 4 and above in English? As a school we have a fairly high percentage of Special Needs children. Working on the premise that no matter how long you spend trying to make me into a premiership footballer I will never make it we came up with a plan. For some children learning presents a similar barrier and not all children are capable of gaining Level 4 by the age of 11. Ben and I decided to collect a group of our SEN children together and get the inspector to interview them. He agreed to see them and he asked fairly straightforward questions, with Ben present. The girls just giggled, one of the boys stared around the room with a vacant expression all over his face and another simply went off on tangents that bore no resemblance to the questions asked. After the children had left Ben explained that for some children a Level 4 at age 11 was a bridge too far. He also said that he would not swap these children for ‘Level 4’ children as Fulbridge would not be Fulbridge without them. A sentiment that I know all our staff would agree with.
The Team Leaders would be invited to the final feedback and rightly so as I very much allow them to lead their areas of school with very little interference but with a great deal of accountability of course. So what was the inspection like for a Team Leader in our school? Here are two accounts by Team Leaders. Firstly Ben, the Upper School Team Leader, remembers it like this:
The X Factor by Ben Erskine, Year 6 teacher and Upper School Team Leader
“So, if 1/5 is equal to 20%,, what percentage is 2/5 equal to? And can you show me why through drawing a picture?” A ‘head’ pops through the class room door. “You need to come now, is Paul alright taking over?”….
Now this happens quite often, so off I go, just a quick explanation to Paul for the next part of the lesson (Lucky, we were just about to start the activities.) OFSTED didn’t even enter my mind, all I could think was: What this time? Another iPad issue? He can’t remember how to download a video from You Tube? Or how to add a newsletter to the website? No, well, seconds later, I find out, it was a little more important (not saying iPad issues and You Tube downloads are not important, I’m sure they are to you dad, the Headteacher is my dad!!!), walking round the corner, ironically into the ‘Have I Got News For You corridor, he says, “We’ve had THE phone call: OFSTED are coming on Thursday and Friday.”
Relieved, I was feeling both very calm and at the same time excited on hearing the news. After what felt like a lifetime, anticipating the phone call, guessing when they would arrive, I had no idea how I would react. Eager! I couldn’t wait. I just wanted them to see what an amazing school we had and what incredible children we have and in my role as Upper School Team Leader I was ready to fight for the only outcome we would accept!
After a couple of late nights at school, we were ready, so the night before they arrived there was only one thing left to do, the best way to prepare for the big day…. A thali at the Banyan Tree. Oh yes! And after 2 days of question after question being fired my way by teachers and staff in my team… Will this work? Is this differentiated enough? Is this the best activity for this group? What do I need to leave for the inspectors? Is this planning a good enough standard? What? When? Why? How? Who? Wh? W? W…w…w… It was a great way to relax and chill before the fight begins.
Getting in to work at 6.45am, it was the first time I was able to sit down and really think about my lessons for the day. As Team Leader there is a significant additional pressure to ensure that not only my lessons were well prepared but that the other five teachers were supported, had all they need and were set to prepare high quality lessons – there lesson grades were as important to me as mine were. Half an hour into writing, a ‘head’ pops round the door. “What this time?” It was to ask if I could observe a lesson with the lead inspector… A maths lesson, observing Peter. Sure, I can! And it went very well, the inspector agreed with everything I said and couldn’t add or disagree with anything.
Now from observing to observed. Reading and the inspector walks in whilst I was reading ‘Ganagta Granny’ a hilarious story by David Walliams. I had a group where three quarters of them were new to English and a quarter who find reading challenging. The best way to inspire them… iPads and Dr Seuss. The inspector loved it, plus great feedback on Sharon’s and Tania’s groups (Well done you two!)
All if the feedback I was getting from the others in Upper School was amazingly positive. Good and outstanding judgments everywhere. Go team!
If OFSTED visiting wasn’t tiring enough after school, was a meeting with one inspector whilst simultaneously looking after 29 very excited dancers, awaiting their performance at The Cresset that evening. Speechless and inspired, Debbie, who has been organising the Primary Dance Festival for years, was amazed at the standard of the dance and most importantly the children. Another success to finish a fantastic first day.
So after the first round, Fulbridge were definitely winning!
Round 2 starts… No visitors until the last lesson of the morning, PSHE. Well, it could not have been better. With Katie and all the other children in my class, they were sure to be impressed when it came to a debate or discussion (and they did not disappoint… Thanks Shakespeare: you were great!)
Finishing early on a Friday wasn’t the best thing having OFSTED in. We sat chatting, trying to plan for the following week, but it just wasn’t working. We just wanted to know what they thought. Twiddling out thumbs, we waited for the call. I was first. It said on the timetable 4:15 – feedback to SLT and Chair of Governors. Getting together in the Activity Hall it was like being on the x-factor, the final two, Dermot has just said, “And the winner (result) of the X Factor (OFSTED) 2012 is….” We were waiting for the O word. Seconds felt like minutes, minutes felt like hours. The lead inspector came through… “We are ready for you now…”
And the result? We won the X-Factor!!!!
Wow! What a week that was… by Jane Morgans, Middle School Team Leader
It all happened on the Tuesday morning at 10:00, I remember the time exactly as I was going out to P.E with Tom. We both arrived at the door and standing there was Charlotte and Iain, looking secretive but with smiles on their faces Iain then proceeded to say, “We need to speak to all Team Leaders in the office.” Well there was no guessing what was going to be said next……
That’s right OFSTED ARE COMING!
Scared, Excited, Panicked, a mixture of emotions ran through me. I was already feeling under the weather and wanted to go home, so I quietly thought to myself ‘Come on Mrs Morgans you can do this, you need to be strong for the team!’ It turned out that was the case with a few staff members during the two days.
After everyone was told and the nerves had gone or subdued, everyone in the team/phase were hard at work. The ethos, dedication and enthusiasm amongst the staff was amazing: this is what we had been waiting for and we needed to show Ofsted all the hard work we have been doing. After checking that Year 4 were alright, myself and the Year 3 team looked through the planning, sorted timetables and resources. It was a long evening at work that night and it continued when I got home. Well it would have but in the quick tidy up when leaving school I realised I had forgotten my memory stick. A wave of panic hit…..what shall I do? So I texted Ben who in turn asked his dad (Mr I Erskine) to come and open school. I think that must have been the quickest time I have ever driven on the parkway to get to school. Waiting, at the door was Iain with the memory stick. I felt so elated but guilty at the same time for making him come back to work. I thanked him and drove back home to carry on the work.
After a sleepless night, it was work time again…..Wednesday went extremely quickly in my eyes. Everyone was busy getting prepared for the next day and sorting resources and making final tweaks to lessons. On Wednesday evening I sat quietly and read through my lesson plans ready for the next day, as I knew the leadership side of my role had been sorted in my folder. An early night was needed in order to sleep of the sore throat I was getting; I did have a restless night. At 2:00 I was wondering if everyone else was awake like me.
The next morning I arrived at work with many others to set up for the day ahead. At 8:20 we met the inspectors and my initial thoughts were they seemed so lovely, they were smiling and wanted the best for the school. For a brief moment I did remind myself they could be very good actors/actresses but I am normally really good at reading people, so I knew they would be better than the last inspectors I encountered.
The day went extremely quickly and every time the door handle went the nerves kicked in….but they still hadn’t arrived by 11.00. At this time I went to do a lesson observation with the man inspector, I want to say Andrew but I have forgotten. It was Miss Grey’s ICT lesson and I was very proud of her having both myself and an inspector in the room: she coped wonderfully and the children’s behaviour was excellent. Personally, my judgement and the inspectors were the same, so I felt happy as it confirmed that my lesson gradings are accurate.
After lunch or should I say no lunch for me, but in the afternoon the lead inspector popped in for my lesson observation. I only had an observation the previous week in guided reading, so I knew it would be alright. Time ticked by and she soon left. The end of the day arrived and everyone who had been seen were getting good/outstanding grades and I felt so pleased for the staff, children and the whole school.
All team leaders, literacy and Numeracy Leaders met to discuss our roles with an inspector, the meeting was quick but she was very positive about our role.
The final day of the inspection had arrived. Walked, the children to assembly and there was an Ofsted inspector sat waiting ready to watch. He then spoke to me and said he had been outside with Year 3 parents and they were extremely positive about staff and school. This made me smile as we all work so hard for the good of the children and it made me feel happy for my team and staff that the children’s education is recognised by the parents. Again time passed and I wasn’t seen but I now others had been and again it was all positive signs. By 12:00 it was all over. A huge sigh of relieve came over me. However, I was still on tender hooks waiting for that final meeting to arrive at 4:00.
Rushing, Iain and then Jean came in and asked for curriculum planning to show the inspectors. I knew it had been done and was on the platform somewhere. Frantically, team leaders were trying to find the planning: all the other staff were chilled and we all looked like headless chickens trying to find the information. After it had been found and given to the inspectors, all the team leaders just exchanged glances and laughed. Words had failed us and we needed to laugh….
Waiting and waiting, it felt so long before the final meeting. Eventually it had arrived and we all sat in the LM room. The final judgement was read out and I just had tears in my eyes, tears of joy for all the children, staff and parents. Everyone in the room was elated and people hugged with relief and excitement that we had finally got what we deserve.
Still to this day after reading the reports it seems surreal that this is the school I belong to and have been for 7 yrs now. I am so proud of everyone involved to make this happen, especially the children, as it is them who benefit from all the hard work of staff. Well done Fulbridge and I can’t wait to CELEBRATE with everyone when the final judgement has been given in 2 weeks time.
The morning Ofsted arrived by Jean Hawksworth, Lower School Team Leader
Thursday 1st March not just an ordinary day at school, the long awaited visit of the Ofsted inspectors had arrived. After a rather restless night of a brain on overdrive, as dawn broke sunlight flooded the room and brought with it a mix of feelings: excitement, nervousness, apprehension together with a whole range of questions dancing around in my head. Could we actually be any more ready as a school? Probably not. Planning, notebooks, resources? Yes lessons ready to go, support staff all primed and happy Phase leader hat on! What might they ask? Which group of learners are the focus of assessment? End of pupil progress, attainment, history of narrowing the gap, end of key stage expectations? Yes no problem can discuss all that. Playtime… ah yes need to get cover for first aid and yes I’ll go out on duty. The cogs turned, the thought process continued… only to be interrupted by an over sized tigger like character bouncing into the bedroom with an enthusiastic, tuneless rendition of the theme tune from Inspector gadget. Andrew was obviously looking forward to today!!
The second day was starting to draw to a close and yet more evidence was required; we had to find our curriculum plan that showed we were covering the National Curriculum, a statutory document. I recalled the staff meeting in which we had created it. We had sheets of paper and post-its laid over the entirety of the school hall. I had taken pictures of it and typed it up. Key document to find but I could not put my hands on it, staff were rushing round school trying to find paper copies and one was found for year three and four, but no others. We were told we had 10 minutes to find it before the team had to pull all their findings together. Eventually my computer revealed the document and I dashed down to the inspectors room with my laptop and a sense of relief and success. We had also found updated versions of it that showed it was a ‘living’ document and not one that was simply gathering dust.
We now had to wait until 2.00pm when Charlotte and I would join the team again for the final summary meeting, when the final judgment would be revealed. As this judgment has to be ratified by HMI’s after a scrutiny of the teams paperwork and evidence I was told by the Lead Inspector that I could not reveal what it was until the final report arrived in two to three weeks time. The two o’clock meeting was a tense affair as the Lead Inspector started to sum up their findings. Charlotte and I barely looked at each other as each of the judgment areas were analysed. The first and most crucial area was achievement, if we could get an outstanding judgment here then the other areas should follow with the same judgment. After reading through what makes a ‘good’ judgment for achievement we looked at the outstanding criteria. The conclusion was that we were outstanding and it all hinged on the sentence that started with ‘In exceptional circumstances ….’
One judgment down and then the Lead Inspector said lets go straight to the ‘outstanding’ criteria for the other areas and as we had hoped they all followed and met the outstanding criteria. Finally the Lead Inspector declared that ‘we have an outstanding school here.’ Tears and hugs followed both in the Learning Mentors room and in the Activity Hall opposite as we tried to compose ourselves.
I went down the corridor towards the Sports Hall, found my son Tom, told him what had happened and got him to go and bring his brother and his mum down to my office. More hugs and tears followed when they got there. I had been told not to tell anyone the result but that does not of course include family!
At 4.15pm our school adviser from the Local Authority joined Charlotte, myself, the Team Leaders and the Chair of Governors for the final summary feedback. We met in Charlottes office to begin with and at 4.15pm headed down to the Activity Hall and then when invited, into the Learning Mentors room for the Lead Inspector to inform everyone of their findings.
Briefly the Lead Inspector fed back the results of the inspection:
Achievement pupils: Outstanding
Quality of Teaching: Outstanding
Behaviour and Safety of Pupils: Outstanding
Leadership and management: Outstanding
Overall Effectiveness: Outstanding
(Less than 10% of primary schools nationally get an outstanding judgment from Ofsted)
But what would the children have written, if they had been an Ofsted inspector? Well Upper school set some homework and this was Neelam Patel’s letter:
Once the feedback was over the inspectors packed their bags and were off, I showed them out. On the way down the corridor a crowd of staff were waiting for some feedback as to how it had gone. The Lead Inspector said goodbye and wished everyone a good weekend and Tom, my son who teaches PE replied, ‘Well that’s very much down to you.’ This amused our Lead Inspector and she was telling the other inspectors what he had said on their way out.
We were unable to officially say that the judgment was outstanding as during the next two weeks the inspector’s judgments, paperwork and evidence would be scrutinized and possibly challenged by Her Majesties Inspectors. We received the draft report in less than a week and after a factual check returned it and then we had to wait for the final confirmed report.
On Thursday March 15th I was at an update for my Child Protection training when Jean Hawksworth, who was with me spotted she had a text message from school. The final report was available on the Ofsted portal. We were eating lunch, we hurriedly ate up and returned to school to find the passwords and opened up the reports. Scrolling down to page 4 where the summary of the judgments were to be found and our eyes settled on a list of ‘1’s’ confirming the draft report that we had been judged outstanding in all areas that Ofsted judges a school on. Jean and I had to return to our course, the afternoon went slowly as we were keen to get back to school and share the news with the staff.
We got back to school for 3.30pm and Helen Bath, Charles Swift and Janet Barnes, three of our Governors joined us in the staff room for the feedback to staff. In an Ofsted regime that is harder to please than ever before we could confirm to the staff that we had achieved Ofsted’s highest grading in all areas that Ofsted judge a school against. Finally the celebrations could start and for me I finally allowed myself to believe in what we had achieved and feel truly excited and proud of what we had achieved as a school. Charles phoned the Evening Telegraph and within 15 minutes a photographer arrived and they promised a big story in Saturday’s edition.
I went home to celebrate!
On a personal note I did not sleep well for almost a week, as after the inspection was over I could not get the memory of the two days and the feedback off my mind. It was not until the Monday and Tuesday that it really started to sink in how well we had done. Collecting the writing for this account from the staff also made me realise, more than ever, how passionate our staff and the children are about our school. It is a special place and for 20 years I have put my heart and soul into it, striving to make it the best school it can be and always putting the children’s interests at the heart of all we do. This inspection strongly supported our creative curriculum approach that I introduced over 7 years ago after seeing Roger Cole, a national advisor talk. The distributed management system that we implemented was seen as a strength, a system that is based on trusting the skills of our staff at all levels whilst demanding appropriate accountability, a system that I passionately believe to be the right way to lead based on a servant leadership approach where a leaders role is to support, not to dictate.
The inspectors commented that the school staff are like a large family, working together harmoniously for the good of the children. I value all staff in our school, some staff have left as they did not subscribe fully to the school’s ethos and that is appropriate, hopefully they will be successful elsewhere. The behavior of the children was acclaimed as exemplary by the inspectors. Our behavior management system has taken years to develop and is something I have led strongly as I have so often seen issues inflamed by insensitive staff, the inspectors commented that they did not hear any staff raise their voices, well maybe there was one.
I feel that after taking on the Junior end of the school six months into a Special Measures process (where Leadership and Management as well as the behaviour of the children were highlighted as the key issues that the progress at our school, after we had been converted into an all-through primary) has been phenomenal. This inspection supported everything I have believed in and all that the school has created to make it such a special place to work.
It may well be my last Ofsted inspection and for me it has condoned and supported everything that I believe in and have introduced at our school.
A successful football team, like Manchester United, needs a really good goalkeeper, centre half, central midfielder and striker if it is to reach the top. In addition to that all the other players and support staff must be of a good standard to support those key roles. Our success is down to the whole school community but it has to be facilitated by key staff. Over the past 10 years I have been lucky enough to work with an excellent Chair of Governors in Helen Bath, ably supported by other Governors, particularly Cllr Charles Swift OBE, an excellent Office Manager in Jill Sherwood, a superb Deputy Head in Charlotte Krzanicki and in more recent times a wonderful site manager in Graham Barnes. These are key roles in any school and I have been lucky enough to work with people of the highest quality. Our Team Leaders are another key role and Ben Erskine, Jane Morgans, Jean Hawksworth and Karen Burton have contributed enormously to the school’s success. It would also be a mistake not to recognize the fantastic contribution that members of staff who have since left the school made to our progress and development and they include Caroline Dingle, a Deputy Head until August 2011 who was the right person at the right time to really move our school significantly forward. In addition to Caroline, two Team Leaders Matt Warn and Cheryl Hill were also significant personalities who contributed a great deal to our school.
When Paul McCartney was asked if he and John Lennon were the reason why the Beatles were so successful and therefore George Harrison and Ringo Starr were merely extras, he replied that he saw the Beatles as a square and that if you removed one corner then the whole square would collapse. He is right, their song writing talents and leadership were key but the success of any group or establishment is ultimately about the whole team and our school is no exception to that rule.
My thanks for their contributions to:
Helen Bath, Chair of Governors
Charlotte Krzanicki, Deputy Head
Illustrations by Rebecca Holmes
Louise Pike, Year 4 teacher
Ben Erskine, Upper School Team Leader and Year 6 teacher
Jean Hawksworth, Lower School Team Leader
Jane Morgans, Middle School Team Leader
Hafissa Sajjad, Year 3 teacher
Michelle Collins, Year 4 Teaching Assistant
Jill Sherwood, Office Manager
Pupils: Isha Ahmed, Year 4, Vanessa and Ellie, Year 6, Tanisha, Katie, Amie and Gemma: Year 6, Junayd, Year 4, Zayna Mahmood, Year 4, Taybah Butt, Year 4,
Rumaisah Komal, Year 3, Emmanuel Shodimu, Year 1, Adam Khan Year 3,
Mahfuza Fariha, Year 3, Daniyal – Year 4, Neelam Patel, Year 6
Iain M Erskine, Head of Fulbridge School