last March, I wrote about our section 5 Ofsted inspection. You can read that post here. In this post, I share our experiences of preparing for a Section 8 monitoring visit in December 2015.
Getting the Call
If you are judged RI in an inspection, you know there will be a follow-up monitoring visit, so in a sense there are months of notice. As it turned out, ours came much later than we expected. We had the call a Thursday for a monitoring visit the following Monday – the start of the last week of the Autumn term. Probably not the week we would have picked – busy with nativity plays, carol concerts, etc., but then again lots to show a visitor! So the answer to the question ‘Will Ofsted visit in the last week of term?’ Is ‘Yes’.
Having notice before a weekend is a double-edged sword: there is more time to prepare but there is also more time to worry. All the documentation had to be sent in advance; the SEF had been done and the SIP was being tightened up anyway, so these things were in place. We told staff at a special briefing on Thursday and it became clear that colleagues made good use of the time they had.
Use the Handbook
This was only the second monitoring visit I had experienced, so I was less familiar with the format than that of a full inspection. I found the Ofsted handbook really useful in understanding the purpose and format of the visit, what the inspector would be looking at and what the possible outcomes could be. Our inspector was Chris Wood, interesting because I’d read some of his work on Pupil Premium. I’d led the PP evaluation last year and authored our new plan, so this certainly served to concentrate my mind.
The day included the following elements. Although Mr Wood specified most of the order of events, exact scheduling was left to us.
- Meet Head
- Meet SLT
- Learning Walk (11 classes were visited)
- Meet Middle Leaders (He chose which)
- Meet student group (mix of abilities, we chose individuals)
- Meet Governors
- Meet Diocesan representative (we’re a faith school. Due to availability this was a phone call)
Apart from these elements, some further information was asked for with a couple of follow-up conversations. This was to clarify points and/or provide further evidence.
Even better if…
In general we were well-prepared and the day went smoothly, sticking to the schedule. One question I had to deal with was accessibility of pupil premium information on our website. This puzzled me because it should have been easy to access. A hyperlink was broken so the 2013-14 evaluation could be seen but not 2014-15. I should have double-checked that all was OK.
My favourite moment – when in conversation with inspector in the school office, a colleague walked in dressed as a minion (all part of the infant nativity play – don’t ask). What did I do – kept calm and carried on! “I don’t see that in every visit” Commented Mr Wood with a smile.
Hope you find this useful if you have a visit coming up. I welcome any comments you may have.