OFSTED Experiences: Impact upon SLT can’t be underestimated

Ofsted, an acronym that will strike fear into even the most hardened of staff. We knew the call was coming, like so many other schools, it had been coming for over two years and casting our eyes towards the impending visit was the focus of many, many SLT discussions. We gathered as much information as we could about what the visit would look like and what would happen over the two days. We prepared and then prepared some more. Then one of our schools within our small trust received the call within the first few weeks of the Autumn term. We listened and reflected upon their experience and threw in a touch more preparation for good measure. The visit crept ever closer. A month or so later and another school in our trust received the call. Closer still it came. Then, at the beginning of November, it was our turn. This is our experience.

I count myself very lucky to be the deputy headteacher of a large, two form entry primary school in the North-West of England. Our school is a diverse community school with provision from 3-11. We serve a disadvantaged area and have 50% pupil premium. Our EAL numbers are similar, with over 30 languages spoken by our school population. I have been at the school for 4 years and was successfully promoted to DHT from AHT in February 2021. It had been a while since I experienced an Ofsted inspection and I had certainly never taken in part in one as a member of SLT. Unchartered territory indeed.

When the initial call came, our HT was not on site. Completely normal, as he works across two schools but afterwards, I was told the colour completely drained out of my face when the call was put through! Nerves kicked in but so did all the preparation we had done. I knew what this call would entail as well as the following one. I wrote down everything we needed to know and arranged the time for the longer call. An hour or so later the call from the inspector came and we had composed ourselves as an SLT to begin the process of painting the picture of our school. The phone call, which we were worried about, turned out to not be the experience we expected. The Ofsted inspector gave us snippets of information about himself and we were quick to identify that he had garnered a lot of information about us already from the website. We were very happy that the recent hard work we had put into the school website had paid off! Heallowed us to select the subjects we wanted deep dives into and allowed the conversation to move in the way we wanted it to. We were able to begin showcasing all the things that make our school the amazing place that it is but also acknowledge that we knew exactly where we were heading and what we continued to work on.

The rest of that grey Monday passed uneventfully as we rallied round our staff, tidied up, perfected the Ofsted folderand of course got the fancy biscuits out! The school displays were refined by our committed staff, planning was polished off and at 8pm we exited the school building nerves janglingbut the shared determination to make the most of our moment ran through our veins. The morning of the first day staff were in school early but the importance of supporting everyone was high on my agenda. Conversations to check in, guide and reassure took place and at 8am we were ready.

The experience over the two days was a positive one. There were, of course, moments where the nerves surfaced. Our history lead, being new to the role, was nervous about the deep dive into their subject. Our curriculum lead AHT successfully supported them through it and they came out of the afternoon positive and fired up for where they would take their subject next. Our Maths lead was much the same, new to role and nervous about the deep dive. However, once again, it was a positive and successful experience which showcased all their hard work with our Maths curriculum.

Our notoriously hard to engage parents reflected us positively (well, mostly positively!) on the parent view survey and we were overjoyed to hear that all staff had reported back that they were proud to be members of our school community. Our children shone throughout the two days, with honesty, enthusiasm, and positivity for our school. They acknowledged that bullying does happen as our school but also that staff deal with it well. They talked about their love of reading and happily shared books with the inspector. In every sense of the word, they were wonderful.

The inspection was a hard two days, but it was also hugely positive. The check ins with the HT reassured us we were on a strong path but the nagging doubt never really left us until we received the final feedback. Leaders at all levels were identified as outward facing with a focus on learning from evidence and research. Our hard work to celebrate the diversity and individuality of our school was recognised and our staff training and development offer was praised. It is important to note that the inspector gave us time to showcase the areas we wanted to and it was clear he had taken time to read the documents we had left out for him to look through. It very much felt like a very fair process- he listened to everything we had to say.

The impact upon our SLT cannot be underestimated. To have our hard work on, what had been key areas for us,acknowledged was hugely gratifying and a sense of success was most definitely felt. We were very honest with the inspector and made it clear from the very beginning what our strengths and weaknesses were. We acknowledged that we knew our curriculum was not embedded completely and when this was our area for improvement, it was no shock. In fact, we were keen to take his feedback and run with it. When the final report came through and the success shared with the school community it was clear that the nerves had been worth it.

Our Ofsted our experience was not the fearsome event that others have endured. Understandably, this does raise concerns over the consistency of inspections, but I also do not want to play down the challenge of the two days. They were hard and upon reflection our collective SLT synopsis is that we are glad we won’t have another visit on our hands anytime soon! They were long, very busy days with a certain level of worry regarding the outcome hanging over our heads. Our school was well prepared for the inspection but so was our mindset. We were open to the experience, open to feedback and open to the inspector coming into our school to judge us. This helped the experience to be a success. The culture of our school is one of openness and community. We work together to drive our school forward, for the better, for every staff member inour school and ultimately the children we serve.



Debbie Christiansen


OFSTED Experiences: Approachable but thorough

I am writing this to support any other headteachers who may be waiting for the OFSTED call!

I have been headteacher at my school for 7 years and joined initially as acting head. We had our first inspection a couple of months after joining and were put into Requires Improvement. We worked hard, and 2 years later were OFSTEDed again and regained our Good judgement. That was 5 years ago and we were expecting OFSTED anytime from last April, so had a long wait! Obviously lockdown slowed down their progress in catching up with inspections.

We had been expecting “The Call” in Summer term, but they didn’t call until September. I had Covid and was in my last 2 days of isolation when the call came. I asked if they could call me at home, which they did. I tried to defer until I was back in school, but they said that a headteacher being ill was not a reason for deferral, as the school is open, so they were coming in. I therefore called my leadership team and let them know that OFSTED were coming in. We then did a Teams meeting call with the lead inspector, myself and my assistant heads. The lead inspector was sympathetic that I would not be there and was flexible to allow me to join meetings from home. We agreed a timetable for the first day, with times for online meetings and also what they were going to be doing in school. We talked about deep dives and agreed on reading, maths, geography and history. These would all take place on day one with the format being meeting with curriculum leader, seeing the subject in class being taught, looking in books and speaking with the children. These all needed to tie together -  what the subject leader said, relating to how this was taught in class, speaking with the classteacher about their subject knowledge, then seeing outcomes in books and then speaking to the children about what they could remember about the subject, what they had done before and what they liked/disliked.

The inspector had a brief outline and we then made sure that the timetable was more detailed – including where each of the inspectors would be, where they were based, who they were seeing, with timings. This meant that we knew where they would all be at any time. They were pleased to have this on their arrival on the first day as it was clear. They offered to introduce themselves to the staff first thing, which they did, and the staff were very welcoming and smiley! This made a good first impression.

The inspectors kept asking about staff well-being during the inspection and each meeting they had with a member of the senior team, they asked again. They were approachable but also very thorough!

It soon became clear that our Year 3 children and reading were a focus for them and phonics. The children coming into Year 3 had missed a large amount of their phonics due to lockdowns and we did not have a synthetic phonics programme in place. We agreed that this was something that we needed to improve on and so they decided to do some more deep dives in the curriculum – PE, art, science and ICT were then looked into. As the curriculum was all sound and my staff could all speak about their subjects with enthusiasm – intent of their curriculum, how it was implemented across the school and also what impact they had – this was all key!

SEN was another focus and this was a strength here, with my SENCo completing a learning walk around schoo and being able to discuss children and their needs and show how children were being supported within class.

I carried out Teams meetings regarding safeguarding, the curriculum, single central register, SIP, SEF and PP strategy. We also discussed attendance and what we were doing to ensure good attendance at school. We met about behaviour and well-being.

The second day, I came into school and I was able to go round school with them, be on the playground etc.. They talked to parents before and after school and also children to discuss SMSC, behaviour, well-being…

The governors were invited in and could also discuss leadership of the school, how we had developed the curriculum, how they questioned me and asked about school improvement. They spoke with a representative from the local authority.

They continued to ask probing questions throughout the second day to ensure they had evidence for all of the hand book. We then sat down and went through the handbook and they discussed each point and whether they had evidence to say we were a good school for each point.

At the end of the second day, we invited governors in for feedback and I was allowed to have the leadership team there too. The feedback was all positive apart from phonics, but we got a good judgement. We were not allowed to tell staff anything until the report was published.

After 2 days of inspection the report that came out was a summary and very short, which upset some members of staff who felt that their hard work was not reported on.

That was our experience, hope it helps someone else!

OFSTED During Covid: A summary of their questions and our responses

This is a summary of an experience of an OFSTED ‘visit’ during October 2020 from one of our HeadsUp4HT’s members who is an Executive Headteacher in an infant school in the UK.

In sharing this, we hope to give you a transparent reflection of the items discussed during the inspection. This may support you, help prepare you or build your confidence and understanding of the process. Many thanks to our contributor.

Infant School Monitoring Visit

Telephone Call:

1. After agreeing to come in, inspectors asked for a well -ventilated room and wash room facilities etc
2. They asked if we had any confirmed cases (for their risk assessment)- we had literally just sent all Year 6 and 6 staff home
3. Explained the purpose of the monitoring “Covid time research” visit and that the questions were very much script-like used across all schools visited
4. They outlined the day ahead:

10 am start

10:15-10:45 Context

11:00- 11:45 Safeguarding

12:00- 12:30 Attendance

12:45 -1:45 Curriculum

2-2:30 Behaviour

The call lasted approximately 30 mins.

1. How effective are leaders in returning children to the school and implementing the curriculum?
our plans in the lead up to lockdown
our experience during lockdown
our actions since lockdown and full return to school

They also continually asked if anything positive or negative has emerged as a result of the above areas, actions etc

They went on to ask about our reflections in terms of what we might do differently next time and the learning that we have taken from everything that has happened and what we have actioned moving forward because of this.

Context of our school lockdown

We feel that what we did during lockdown has impacted on the full return of staff and pupils in September 2020:

o Utilised the lockdown opportunity for CPD to tackle areas that clearly needed addressing (my evaluation of current provision)
- Safeguarding
- Online Safety
- Google Classroom
- Purple Mash
- Mindfullness and Wellbeing
- Reading: RWI, Daily Supported Reading, Destination Reader (KS2)
- Writing: The Write Stuff
- Maths: Inspire
- Environments- clear out
o Recovery Curriculum –The Big Think approach for PSHE underpins all our learning now and is accurately aligned to our Christian ethos and values. That is the only change. Expectations are high so all the children are in receipt of a broad, inclusive curriculum. The timetables have not changed and this was the case from the word go. There have been additional outdoor PE sessions and music, singing etc have continued.
o Weekly calls and transition meetings at the end of the summer term, helped identify families who were anxious about coming back.
o Having Reception and Year 6 come back allowed time for staff who were absent to stagger their return and take part in CPD ready for the new term
o Risk Assessments
o Accountability document to delegate new and clarify expectations of roles and areas of accoutability
o SPAH Ways (non- negotiables)
o Communication to staff and children
o Rigour of home learning – high expectations - further enhanced by Google Classroom (and training) Purple Mash (safeguarding keeping safe online)
o Extra INSET days to allow for full preparation and teacher training -safeguarding addendum to include Covid info and Behaviour policy addendum
o Main barrier: No internet access at home (40%) and only mobile phones

Training for staff

o Mostly online training of staff e.g: already mentioned
o Oracy and effective communication, emotional inteligence
o Ongoing training for staff; also accessed training via Tom Sherrington, Mary Myatt, Ed Tech and Reach Team, Curriculum HEP, Bereavement Training, Mental Health First-Aid (Rebecca), SSS online. National Online safety.

Wellbeing of staff & relationships

o Updated staffing structure (Roles and accountability) – thought about where relationships were best, particularly for our most vulnerable children given Covid and absence from school
o Communication and checking in with staff
o SLT – line management structure supported others
o Signposting staff to external courses, including stress management courses – help lines provided on school website

School’s priorities and changes in priority

o Focus on Emotional strength through The Big Think and working closely with councellors
o Inclusive SPAH curriculum
o Sustainable & remote/blended learning offer
o Governor involvement re: Safeguarding, H&S
o More of a focus on oracy and language rich environments






o 1 new member started during lockdown 
o All new staff were included in all meetings and training opportunities then 3 more in infants and a music teacher


Attendance during lockdown

o Reported daily to DfE
o LAT (LDBS London) Weekly State of play

Attendance now

o 96/ 97% overall

Removals from roll since September

8 children left as a result of Covid in


A concern are the number of children leaving this week (infants only) due to circumstances out of our Eg. N-1 chid (left the country)

R -1 child homeless and rehoused out of borough

Y1 -1 child homeless rehoused out of borough

Y2 -1 child deported

Barriers to children returning (Google Forms survey and follow up calls)

Y6 first then Reception

o Travelling to school via public transport for those out of borough
o Parental anxieties
o Quarantining children/self-isolating

Attendance Policy changes

o None  - no fining of parents being brought in

Actions to make sure children are attending

o Parent Support Worker
o First day calling
o Calling parents and reassuring them
o Ongoing weekly communication via letters/newsletters and website updates/ Twitter/ phone calls/ visits
o Presence on the gate each day
o Working with EWO
o Home visits where necessary


How are children adapting to the return to school

o All good – very calm; staggering/timetabling has supported children’s behaviour

What actions have we put in place to ensure smooth return?

o Transition sessions
o The Big Think- mindfulness and wellbeing
o Videos of school on website – new class tours
o Zoom professional Meetings
o Transition information packs for children with 1-1 support or for children who needed it
o Meet the Teacher Meetings remotely – video and phone calls
o Very small school with a Christian ethos, familiar staff (transition not an issue)

Barriers to pupils’ behaviour/ attitudes- no issues

o Lack of routine for some children but thus far, no significant cases of this (quickly remedied)
o Some anxiety about new procedures e.g: children’s families with autism

Changes in routines for staff and pupils

o Risk assessment- shared all staff
o Bubbles, staggering, timetables, one-way systems, hand-washing, spacing, lack of visitors, visits,

Policy changes

o Reviewed Positive Behaviour Policy and addendum to reflect hand, face, space and new expectations – posters around school
o How we communicate and engage parents

Actions to support SEND children and @ risk children

o As above
o Weekly phone calls
o Regular communication with parents
o Individual risk assessments
o Inclusion Manager meetings earlier this term

Any poor behaviours or surprising changes in behaviours of children

o None – no behaviour incidents have been logged thus far

Exclusions – what have we done? What will we do?

o No exclusions to report

Use of external agencies to support behaviour – how has this changed during lockdown and now?

o Specialist behaviour support to support one vulnerable child who has yet to return (Supply Reception- high ratio of adults)
o N/A as not needed for others

Use of funding to support children’s behaviour

o Other than with one children, not applicable as not required



What are the changes to our safeguarding practices?

o TAF, CP & CIN meetings all undertaken remotely.
o EHCP pupils had individual risk assessments completed that were annotated as and when necessary (phone calls each week).
o Any struggling were referred to external agencies: Trailblazer, EWO, EP
and counsellors available for families and staff
o Recording concerns and following up – this is the same CPOMs.
o Guidance provided to staff about indicators of concern (training).
o Follow-up during lockdown on children not accessing work
o Home visits undertaken to monitor particular concerns and deliver food, check on wellbeing of the families we called
o Teachers completed weekly calls logs- where necessary SLT / DSLs followed up with any necessary safeguarding
o Used own knowledge of families to offer places to other vulnerable groups

How are we ensuring ongoing safeguarding for staff during remote education?

o Remote Learning Policy and handbook that are supported by risk assessments
o Meetings – inviting all staff to meetings and if didn’t attend, follow this up (meetings also recorded and available where necessary to support follow up)
o Weekly support staff meetings
o Free sessions from MIND and regular signposting to support agencies/training
o Offered Zoom staff meetings (NHS)
o Flexible with timetable if others for example, have not been in school
o Phoning staff
o Regular and clear communication to all staff
o Being open, honest and reassuring
o Code of conduct for remote teaching implemented as well as Remote Learning Policy and Contingency Plans

How have we identified new vulnerabilities?

o Same systems as before
o Know families who are vulnerable and providing support as required e.g: use of PSA worker
o home visits
o Risk Assessments including all BAME staff, pregnant staff members and those who arec most vulnerable
o Identifying indicators of new mental health needs and staff understanding its link to safeguarding; this was referred to on during INSET days re: KCSiE

How do we make sure the children get specific help?

o Referrals to relevant agencies
o supporting – food and clothes (books, pencils and packs)
o Resources available in school
o Weekly Inclusion meeting meetings focused on wellbeing and how well children have settled back in school (Team Time, additional time for support staff to meet with class teachers after school)
o Open channel of communication for parents via emails
o School nursing service
o Vulnerable children during lockdown re: FSM vouchers and local foodbank
o Providing individual support to parents who are self-isolating

How are we managing safer recruitment?

o Policy being updated to reflect changes
o Supply staff – checking of DBS and all necessary procedures (usual procedures in place)
o Recruitment would be undertaken remotely
o No volunteers or work experience students
o All specialist teachers, SALT etc when on site adhere to school’s protocols and procedures which have been shared with them e.g: Risk Assessment

How are we managing allegations against adults?

There aren’t any but if there were:

o Report to ExHT / HoS and would refer to LADO
o If about ExHT to Chair of Governors
o Would be done through social distancing and risk assessing each meeting

Any challenges in maintaining the SCR?

o None – all up to date

Concerns raised since lockdown – how have we managed them?

o Managed via email, phone-calls and PPE
o Safeguarding concerns logged on CPOMs
o Children not returning to school via HoS and EWO (only one but has since left to return to their country of birth)
o Parents called within the first day and then every day if necessary
o More details are now required when parents call in about child being sick



What is our trajectory to be delivering our full and usual curriculum?

o In place with rigour
o Immediate return - Transition, well-being, mental health, routine, relationships with peers and adults alongside assessments entered as Summer 2 after 2 weeks in
o Phonics and reading
o The teaching of subject-specific vocabulary, key knowledge or skills will continue to be a focus.

What barriers will we be facing to get this in place by the summer term?

o Class/staff absence and return to remote learning – see Remote Learning Policy
o Reading/writing stamina
o Readjusting to learning routines and behaviours
o Mental health issues
o Interpreting government guidelines
o Gaps as and when summative tests have been analysed – these have started re: tests
o Access to resources – bid in for additional resources re: GT, New Wave, Tottenham Grammar
o Volume of curriculum to cover between now and the end of the academic year

What is the breadth of the curriculum now? Is there anything we are not teaching?

o All subjects are being taught, though in more limited depth in some areas re: content
o Content which is chronologically important will be taught; teaching of required skills is non-negotiable
o RSE catch-up from summer term and prior to statutory requirement for April 2021
o Currently no swimming or external trips/visitors

Is there a difference between the offer each year group is getting?

o No, although each group will adjust according to need

How are we prioritising the content of our curriculum?

o Core areas in the morning to catch up with teaching of core skills where there are gaps

What priorities do we have in each year group?

Already mentioned

What are our assessment practices? What is the initial assessment revealing?

o Referred to week 2 data- early indicators are that outcomes are low.

Reading – are we changing the books we are reading because of COVID?

o Children take books home and quarantine when they come back
o Daily cleaning increased significantly

What is the nature of the support we are offering children to catch up? What strategies are we using?

o QFT – linked to all new training undertaken
o Online resources
o Interventions
o National Tutoring Programme sign up and engagement with EEF resources
o In house training re: high expectations

Are we doing anything to support specific gaps in knowledge?

o Pedagogy of teachers through CPD to determine gaps and plug them
o PLR – Professional Learning Journeys (Flip model of monitoring)

Remote learning – our journey to now. What are we offering currently?

o Purple Mash
o Google Classroom
o Online resources: Oak Academy, Oxford Owl, Learning Village for EAL children, Rock Star Tables etcetc
o Specific resources/work adapted for SEN children
o Packs provided for children as required

Is remote learning aligned to our curriculum?

o It was during lockdown; blended learning opportunities are being developed further via CPD
o Expectation currently to set one piece of online homework and give feedback after half term that has increased

Another Lockdown/ School closure/ Bubbles or Year groups isolating

What might the school do in case of further lockdown?

o See Remote Learning Policy
o Will continue to keep in regular contact with parents  

How are we using funding? How much is it?

o National Tutoring Programme, drawing on best practice from EEF
o Additional resources to be used at home
o Separate bid re: Grieg Trust , New Wave
o Embed funding strategy into Pupil Premium Strategy
o School Home Support

Has remote learning and the lockdown brought any positives? For any specific groups?

o Upskilled staff and children re: remote learning
o Routines and procedures are working better
o Community of staff have gelled better
o Parents more appreciative of what the school is offering – much positive feedback

What is the role of the parent in remote learning?

o Continually reviewing our parental engagement processes and practices
o Encouraging staff to attend parental engagement training
o Maintaining communication with harder to reach parents (AHT for inclusion)
o Tailoring the expectations of parents to the ages of the children
o Ensuring communication is delivered through a range of means (text, email, website or face-to-face)where necessary in order to make accessible to all
o Asking parents for suggestions of how they can help
o Target and communicate with clarity so all understand (consider language needs, translators)
o Home visits
o To ensure that pupils are safe when accessing online work – this was shared with parents
o Parents need to be present during Zoom meetings with councellors or any others that are necessary