Teaching and working in education and schools have their own particular rhythm – it is a dynamic environment which is usually in a form of equilibrium. The idea of dynamic equilibrium is common in Geography. For example, if you think of a coastline.. as sediment is eroded in one place it is deposited elsewhere.. ever changing but in balance.
You could also think of a school in the same way as a system with inputs – processes and outputs.
Every now and again the system has an additional input which knows the equilibrium slightly off balance for a short while. That input is Ofsted.
We got the call and it wasn’t unexpected but with out new timetable being only just in place we’d hoped for a couple or more weeks to be really well established. If you work in the public sector you will know all about scrutiny. Teachers, I suspect, get more scrutiny than other professions as they get a minute by minute appraisal by students during lessons, by colleagues, by leaders and by outcomes.
Everything, not everyone is scrutinised by Ofsted. The call usually comes mid morning and the Lead Inspector has an idea about your institution as he or she has looked at “The Data”. The Lead and team will have drawn up some theories about your place of work. We had several triggers, a new Principal, a blip in results and new additions to the leadership and the due time had elapsed since the previous inspection.
The equilibrium is rocked for 48 hours whilst the staff, students, parents and Governors are all informed. Tutors meet with tutees and reinforce expectations, teachers put life on hold for the duration as lesson plans are tweaked, folders updated, seating plans reviewed.. no-one wants to let anyone down. It is business as usual but with some eagle-eyed visitors. The next two days, if it is a Section 5 inspection become a blur. It is an opportunity to showcase your students, your staff, your style and your stuff.
At the same time, you as part of the leadership team are putting on an optimistic, positive face, as quite naturally you are proud of your institution, your culture and ethos, your colleagues, your students – particularly those who go the extra mile such as the girl who wrote to the Lead Inspector to tell him how she’d been made part of the school family immediately having just moved from a different part of the world.
The inspectors said that not all our students are academically resilient. That may be true in that some do give up with learning too quickly, however, they are some of the most socially resilient students in the country and have shown that in ways many of us will never have had to.
In a perverse way the Ofsted visit was quite enjoyable and proved another great distraction. If I was bustling about at school I couldn’t be thinking about the Bionic Boob which had by this point been renamed as “The Cannonball”.
Tip: If you are a school leader, teacher, member of support staff and have the Ofsted call – clear your diary and use it as an opportunity to show an outside agency just how brilliant your institution can be.