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Throwing this one open for the Court of Mumsnet to decide...

(23 Posts)
ofsteddilemma Thu 12-May-05 17:57:47

I am a regular poster but have changed my name for this for reasons too complicated to go into.

We have just been told that our primary school (4-11) is due for an Ofsted inspection next month. Last September, we had a new Headteacher start who, by all accounts, blew the governing body away at her interview and of whom great things were expected.

However, as far as we can see, she's done very little to change the school and in fact seems to have made things worse. The communication between school and parents is appalling and the younger members of the school might as well be invisible.

The thing is, I've been biding my time, wanting to give the new Head a chance to make her mark and see in what direction she wanted to take the school, but I'm none the wiser (and plenty of parents feel the same way as me). She's had nearly a whole school year now - long enough?

We've been sent a questionnaire by Ofsted and invited to a meeting to air our views. Should we be full and frank in this meeting at the risk of the school getting a bad Ofsted report? Are we being unfair to the Head? Does it take longer than a year to get your feet under the table? Is this the right forum or should I approach the Head first?

I'd be very grateful for any thoughts - TIA

hunkermunker Thu 12-May-05 17:59:31

I'd approach the Head first - she may have big plans that are being thwarted by stick-in-the-mud staff, but since I only have a one-year-old, you might not want to take my advice too seriously!

Mud Thu 12-May-05 18:00:42

has she done anything at all? changed staff? implemented new procedures? put a strategic plan forward?

it takes a couple of years for a head to make their mark but they certainly should have started teh ball rolling within a year

personally I'd have a discussion with the head and governers before mentioning anythign to ofsted at all - it is a matter for the governers to act on and you could destroy your school otherwise as all ofsted can do wil be to put your school on special measures and publicise current parents concerns over the school, hence less people will apply so less money so less chance of improvements

just be careful

ofsteddilemma Thu 12-May-05 18:02:22

Hmmm, that's what I was worried about. She really has done nothing visible - she might have loads of plans but none that have filtered through to the plebs waiting at the school gates.

Mud Thu 12-May-05 18:05:21

so ask her

ofsteddilemma Thu 12-May-05 18:06:37

She's very scary but you're right of course. Thing is, I was planning on having a meeting with her before the end of term but this oftsed inspection has muddied (!) the waters for me IYKWIM

Mud Thu 12-May-05 18:09:48

why are you scared of her, she's just another adult with a job to do

does she make you feel like she's going to give you a detnetion?

yoyo Thu 12-May-05 18:15:35

Ask if there could be a pre-Ofsted meeting for all parents and staff so that any future plans could be discussed openly.

If our school were to be Ofsteded next month I would have no idea of the development plan either. We have a new Head too! Have just been elected governor and am hoping that these sorts of things will be handled in a more open manner.

jangly Thu 12-May-05 18:19:49

I think you should answer the questions honestly. They are looking for parents' opinions. It is up to the Head to fight her own corner if necessary.

lockets Thu 12-May-05 18:21:24

Message withdrawn

lockets Thu 12-May-05 18:22:09

Message withdrawn

WideWebWitch Thu 12-May-05 18:23:51

As a parent I'd say be full and frank. If ofsted don't tell the school what's wrong they can't fix it. The governors are supposed to be 'critical friends' so they should be aware of the feeling among parents. I have no idea how long it takes to implement change in a school setting so maybe the teachers here will have better ideas but I'd still say now is the time to be honest.

Tommy Thu 12-May-05 18:57:15

I am a governor in a primary school and we had a new head last Sept as well. She has implemented loads of changes including some very influential staffing changes. I think that if a head means business then s/he will get on with it straightaway. I'm assuming you're a governor ofsteddilemma? Make sure you bring it up at your pre-ofsted preparation meeting. You can word it as all of you trying to make sure the inspectors know how things have improved and preparing for your interviews.
If you're not a governor, then I would just be honest with your questionnaire!

assumedname Thu 12-May-05 19:32:24

There is a temporary headteacher at my dd's school - started 2 months ago and will leave at the end of July. She has already implemented quite a few changes (unfortunately, from my pov). So I think a year is plenty of time, especially if she's going to stay in post for a while.

roisin Thu 12-May-05 19:55:24

I'd be full and frank tbh. At our school they send parental and child questionnaires home every year. Last year they sent us questionnaires as usual, and only told parents afterwards that those questionaires were part of the Ofsted, and were going to the Inspectors first, not to school! So they certainly got genuine "full and frank" comments: almost all of which were very positive!

cazzybabs Thu 12-May-05 20:04:01

ask to see the schools five year development plan

ofsteddilemma Thu 12-May-05 20:07:18

Thanks for all your responses - I'm just worried about being as full and frank as I'd like to be if the feeling was that it could do more harm than good.

Mud - I'm joking

Tommy - no, not a Governor but I would be prepared to stick my neck out and try and persuade parents one way or another if needs be.

swedishmum Thu 12-May-05 20:27:49

From our last Ofsted (as a concerned parent who also worked at the school) I would say be frank. The questionnaires form the basis of a meeting between parents and the lead inspector, and simply raise issues that parents are interested in. Only a few of these issues actually appeared on the final report. As communication is, in my opinion, a major problem in some schools it could be that said new head is amazing but has failed to let others know that progress is underway. It's all anonymous and if the inspectors don't know of any perceived problems, they can't help. I'm sure you can word your letter so that it raises your concerns in a positive way!

ofsteddilemma Thu 12-May-05 20:46:41

Thanks swedishmum, that's really useful

Jampots Thu 12-May-05 20:50:29

My childrens' school had an Ofsted inspection in Spring 2001 and all parents were invited to a meeting with the lead inspector which was closed to staff/governors. Typically though there was one teacher whose son is at the school and a couple of others who worked there as Classroom Assistants. The next day all the staff knew exactly who had said what to the Inspector . I for one would be honest as you are doing no favours by pretending all is rosey in the garden. At least by teh time her next inspection comes round, she can show (hopefully) that she has turned the school around completely

pabla Fri 13-May-05 15:00:17

You can be as frank as you like in the questionnaire but you may ind it difficult in the meeting. My daughter's school was inspected last November. It is a good school but the last permanant head left nearly three years ago and there have been a succession of acting heads since while the governors tried to fill the vacancy (they have now filled it btw). At the time of the inspection many parents were concerned at the length of time it was taking and that this would have an impact in the medium to long term (e.g. new parents have been put off by this and the school has gone from being over-subscribed to under-subscribed in this time.)

Like you, I had concerns about this and other things I felt should be aired, but at the same time didn't want the school to get a bad report. However, talking to parents who had children at the school during the previous inspection, and from the comments of the acting head, I got the distinct impression you were expected to sing the praises of the school at this meeting. As Jampots found, there were staff present who have kids at the school (and parent-governors too) and I personally felt it would have been frowned upon to say anything negative. I don't think staff and governors should be allowed to attend really but if they have kids at the school I presume they are allowed to.

BTW, I also felt the governors pulled a fast one on us - they obviously knew an inspection was imminent and brought in an acting head for the term who brought in a lot of (minor) changes in a short period of time - designed to look good for the inspectors I felt.

kama Fri 13-May-05 15:09:19

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sallycinnamon Fri 13-May-05 20:39:35

I'm a teacher and have been through 2 OFSTEDs. Even though they are only there for a short space of time they pick up on the negatives really easily. IMO the head should have made their presence felt by now- 2 1/2 terms is long enough. If they haven't i would be inclined to think they were all mouth- gift of the gab in the interview and not much else. Our head is due to retire next year and as a member of staff I would expect wholesale changes from a new head eager to stamp their authority, I would be concerned if they didn't. In my experience Head teachers are real egotists (sorry if there's any reading this!) and no change from a new head would bother me. So speak to the Head and if you get no joy tell the truth in the OFSTED parents meeting.

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