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Three OFSTEDs in a year?

(22 Posts)
ofstedconfused Tue 12-Feb-13 08:29:23

Regular user, but namechanged due to circumstances.

Our school was given Notice to Improve last May (OFSTED 1), then there was another visit in November, after which the letter said satisfactory progress was being made (OFSTED 2). However, last week OFSTED turned up again, only about 7 working weeks after their previous visit (OFSTED 3). Is this normal?

Don't know how it went, but inspectors asking some strange questions on the playground like - "is you child happy at school?" - "yes", "Are you sure? Do they ever fake Illness?". Is this sort of questionning appropriate? Another parent questioned why they were back so soon and they told her that the school was not making progress, even though their letter in December said the school was. I'm very confused and worried about this situation. The school is converting to academy status (sponsored) on 1 April.

Advice anyone?

tiggytape Tue 12-Feb-13 08:47:15

Schools on Notice to Improve are now subject to much more frequent inspections than ever before. In addition to these inspections, monitoring visits to schools in Special Measures and those with a Notice to Improve take place as well. I suspect at least one visit was just a monitoring one.

The monitoring visit may have found satisfactory progress but the school was still officially on Notice to Improve (and still is unless the last visit prompts a change in this) so is still subject to very frequent Ofsteds.

They have changed it so that in theory, frequency of visits is governed by need not by arbitary timescales and the school will continue to be monitored closely all the time that it is on Notice to Improve.

tiggytape Tue 12-Feb-13 08:52:27

Ofsted's questions may be looking at the specific problems the school has eg poor attendance or high rates of term time absence and trying to get a handle on why this is. Or it may be that feedback they've received from some parents says they are not happy with the school generally and Ofsted want to see if this is a widely held view.

As to progress - when a school is failing in some key areas, Ofsted want to see rapid improvements - satisfactory may not be enough. And even where some progress is being made, Ofsted do not go away and let the school go unchecked for months or years. Where a school is below the required standard, Ofsted will be on the case until it has been turned around.

Are you not happy with the school's efforts to improve or are you unhappy that things are being monitored so closely?

ofstedconfused Tue 12-Feb-13 08:52:37

OFSTED 1 and 3 were full inspections, 2 was a monitoring visit.

When we asked governors why they were here again, we were told that it was unexpected as the monitoring inspector had told them that due to progress they were unlikely to be inspected again before september.

It's all very confusing. In December, the league tables showed that our school had made massive improvements, but one of the inspectors indicated to a parent that the school hadn't improved. Also, we now have a new interim headteacher, who I'm told is very experienced.

I would like to think that the outcome was good, but the inspectors gave the impression on the playground that they werent happy. There's been no indication at all from the school - it wasn't even mentioned on the newsletter.

tiggytape Tue 12-Feb-13 09:01:12

'Improved' is always a difficult term to rely on: It is possible to improve massively and still not be at the required standard. It is possible to improve continually but not at a fast enough pace to catch up.

The Governors may hear that things have improved and assume that this means things are going well.
Ofsted may concede that some areas have improved but worry that progress is too slow or lacking in other areas.

You should get a copy of Report 3 very soon and be able to see for yourself how things are going. If Ofsted still have concerns, they won't just set a grade, they give an explanation of what the school is failing to do, which areas have got better and which areas are yet to improve.

It may take time to fully turn things around to the extent that Ofsted are fully satisfied and, with academy conversion on the cards, there are bound to be changes either way. The idea though is to be reassuring that things aren't left to lie and that changes that need to be made will happen and will happen soon.

ofstedconfused Tue 12-Feb-13 11:34:26

But am I right in my understanding that any report on the current school ceases to be valid on conversion?

If so, then why OFSTED so close to conversion? Surely, especially with the previous inspection being so recent, this is a poor use of money?

ofstedconfused Tue 12-Feb-13 11:36:07

My friend who had the conversation with OFSTED about progress is absolutely convinced, based on what the inspector said to her, that the outcome is going to be bad.

tiggytape Tue 12-Feb-13 11:51:09

When a school converts to an academy, it gets classed as 'closed' on the Ofsted website. All of the past Ofsted inspection reports still exist for all to see but the school gets a new page on the Ofsted website (even if the name of the school doesn't change).
The first publication under this new name is usually the Academy conversion letter with date of conversion and other details outlined.

Ofsted say:
Schools with a notice to improve will usually receive a monitoring inspection between six and eight months after their last section 5 inspection. They will usually be reinspected under section 5 of the Education Act 2005 between 12 and 16 months after the last section 5 inspection, although the timing of the reinspection may be influenced by the outcome of the monitoring inspection.

Ofsted also say:
On a monitoring inspection inspectors will not make a judgement on the school’s overall effectiveness. Monitoring inspections of schools with a notice to improve cannot remove the school from a category of concern or place it in special measures. However, the outcome of the monitoring inspection may influence the timing of the school’s reinspection

So in fact the timings seem about right - you had a full inspection just under 1 year ago, a monitoring visit 6 months later and another full inspection 9 months after the first which is a little quicker than normal but still reasonable if the monitoring visit was not reassuring enough.
Other things that can trigger an Ofsted Inspection are:
a qualifying complaint
a request by the Secretary of State
other information which is brought to Ofsted’s attention
But in this case I suspect the monitoring visit raised enough concerns that the full Ofsted was moved fowards from May (when expected) to February. If you are sure this is not the case then perhaps one of the other 3 reasons apply - a complaint or extra concerns?

Academies are still subject to Ofsted inspections and converting will not mean that Ofsted ceases to be involved. If rapid improvements are made (as is hoped after conversion) Ofsted visits will get less and less.

tiggytape Tue 12-Feb-13 12:02:51

The information on academy converters that were on Notice to Improve before conversion was published in December 2012 and says:

"These academies will be subject to a monitoring inspection within two full terms of opening. The outcome of the monitoring inspection may influence the timing of future inspection events."

"Although a predecessor school was in a category of concern at the time the school became an academy, that designation does not carry over to the new school (which is a new legal entity). For this reason, the monitoring inspection will be carried out as a ‘no-formal designation’ monitoring inspection under section 8 of the Education Act 2005. It will focus on whether the academy is making reasonable progress in raising standards for all pupils or is not making enough progress in raising standards for all pupils."

"If the academy is found to be making reasonable progress in raising standards for all pupils, it will be inspected again under section 5, normally within 24 months of opening. If the academy is judged to not have made enough progress, the monitoring report will set out clear priorities for improvement. Progress against these priorities will be assessed at the section 5 inspection, which is likely to take place early in the second year of operation."

So assuming this latest Ofsted Inspection (number 3) does not move the school out of Notice to Improve, another Ofsted will be scheduled this year. The slate will be wiped clean in April but another inspection will quickly follow because it is known that the school is in difficulty and needs to be looked at sooner than other schools. If it passes the Ofsted Inspection later this year, it will not be inspected for 2 years.

admission Tue 12-Feb-13 22:41:48

Any Ofsted inspection will potentially have some level of questioning about well being in the school. As an inspector in Wales we would always ask pupils around the school, whether they feel safe,what they would do if anybody was nasty to them, what they understood by being healthy, are you happy, etc. So I think that it would be quite appropriate to being asking such questions of parents. However asking whether they were sure that children were happy or whether they were faking illness sounds a bit too heavy handed to me.
I find it incredibly difficult to believe that any inspector would say they were back because the school was not making progress, that is so un-professional as to be worthy of disciplinary action. The one thing that you should not be doing is discussing the inspection with outsiders, especially while the inspection is on-going. No decisions on the outcomes of the inspection are cast in stone until they have been checked by other Ofsted inspectors.

ofstedconfused Wed 13-Feb-13 11:32:01

The story about the inspector commenting on lack of progress is absolutely true. It was taken by the parent to a parent governor they were so shocked and there is now a very strong rumour going round that all is not well. I am equally convinced of the other comments as they have now been repeated by a couple of parents in different environments. It would appear we may have an issue on our hands. If so, how do we deal with it? Or how do we ask the governors to deal with it?

tiggytape Wed 13-Feb-13 11:58:17

I am a little bit confused about which issue you are concerned about.
It is clear Ofsted have major reservations about the quality of education being offered at the school - the frequency of their visits, the Notice to Improve and conversion to a sponsored academy all point to serious problems at the school.

But you also seem worried about the way Ofsted have conducted themselves whilst at the school. As admission says, if they have acted unprofessionally disclosing something to a parent or if a parent has been able to guess information from what has been said then that is not good but probably wouldn't be the greatest concern when so many other major issues are facing the school.

I don't know whether your worry is that you feel the school has been unfairly treated or if you feel the school is failing and not enough is being done quickly enough to put things right. You say "there is now a very strong rumour going round that all is not well" when it has been clear that all has not been well since at least May last year.

ofstedconfused Wed 13-Feb-13 12:27:56

Thanks, tiggytape, I know this all seems confusing. A quick precis, if it helps

May - Notice to improve - Achievement graded 4, based on SATs results being below floor, but acknowledgement that progress much improved and an expectation to see higher SATs that year. All other gradings 2 or 3

So, most of us stayed to see what would happen

However, we lost several teachers at the end of summer term, but my DC still had 'good' teachers and due to local nature of the school and friendships etc, stayed on.

November - monitoring visit - satisfactory progress acknowledged

General upbeat feel. Staffing more settled.

December - league tables published. School improved from bottom of local table to nearer top (well above middle). So, still room for optimism.

February - OFSTED inspector suggests to parent that progress is not all it should be, and nature of questionning caused concern. Questions to teachers and governors have been met with little response, they all look exhausted, and surely if there was at least a glimmer of good news they would hint this?

ofstedconfused Wed 13-Feb-13 12:31:31

Oh, and conspiracy theories are rife with regards to OFSTEDs role in the whole academy process. They turned up before the week after governors had been asked to consider academy status.

tiggytape Wed 13-Feb-13 12:44:28

It does sound worrying. I think you are going to have to hang on in there and see what the latest Ofsted report says. The Governors may already know - they are not however allowed to tell you. It is strictly confidential until it is published so even if it was good news, they wouldn't be allowed to say anything or hint at this at all.

Setting aside this one comment to a parent that was reported third hand, everything else could be read either way:
- You have been inspected a lot but that is normal for a school on Notice to Improve.
- Ofsted's questioning seems inline with what they normally ask but perhaps a bit heavier handed that normal. As admission says, they are supposed to ask challenging questions to get to the truth about how parents really feel not just general opinions.
- You have been pushed to becoming an academy but that is normal for a school with SATS below floor targets, as they were at that time so this is not likely to be a conspiracy.
- Whilst some things may have improved or stayed the same, other things have perhaps got worse (the loss of good staff may not directly affect your DC but is bound to have an overall impact).

The Ofsted report should be published in a few weeks time and you will know more then about how things have gone and what Ofsted really think. The fact the Governors refuse to hint isn't a bad sign, it just means they are sticking to the confidentiality rules as they are obliged to until then.

admission Wed 13-Feb-13 17:04:49

I think for me the concern here is that a school that is apparently getting better is potentially going to be put into reverse gear by the need to convert to an academy. Undertaking such a conversion is a big task and will for sure divert attention of the senior leadership team away from the key task of improving attainment.
Ofsted's focus on the school can do nothing but aid the push to improve attainment. It is the inter-connection or otherwise of Ofsted involvement with becoming an academy that is worrying.

ofstedconfused Wed 13-Feb-13 18:03:51

Thanks admission

I think there are two concerns here. Firstly, that academy conversion may well/has diverted attention from the key task of raising achievement. Secondly, that the timing of the OFSTED inspections does seem a little odd, even in light of what is normal practice. If this inspection is negative it will do untold damage to the school - it definitely won't have aided the push to improve attainment.

MM5 Sat 16-Feb-13 17:26:21

If, during a monitoring visit, the inspectors think that enough progress has been made they can trigger a full Ofsted visit. There is no point in reinspecting if monitoring visit does not show that improvement is being made. They are already category 4.

There are lots of questions inspectors ask children, staff and parents. I don't find the questions unusual. I can understand how they can sound and the speculation.

I wouldn't over speculate. The report will come out shortly.

ofstedconfused Mon 18-Feb-13 10:33:16

Is it likely to be relevant that this final OFSTED took place the week before the academy funding agreement is/was due to be signed?

Lots of negative rumours abound, some with substance.

Lottikins Mon 18-Feb-13 11:19:21

Move your kids.They only get one education.

ofstedconfused Mon 18-Feb-13 11:58:49

Currently in process of moving them TBH, but that doesn't help the rest of the kids who deserve a whole lot better, not only from the school, but from all those who promised to help.

tiggytape Mon 18-Feb-13 13:06:45

Perhaps the timing is an issue but perhaps not. It is totally normal for a school on Notice to Improve to have a monitoring inspection just a few months later and, depending on the outcome of that, a further full inspection a year later or sooner if there are still concerns. So the timing you describe isn't that unusual at all in itself.

However, if there was any hint that the school may have improved enough to come off of it's Notice to Improve status, then this would have some bearing on the school once it becomes as academy. If it enters academy status having previously been on Notice to Improve yet another full inspection must be scheduled this year. If it becomes an academy having already improved then the pressure of monitoring would be less.

I cannot think of any reason for negative rumours though. The academy decision was final long before this last inspection and the school was in difficulties long before that. I don't understand what difference parents might think it makes - there is no sinister reason for Ofsted scheduling a visit when they did. Even if they hadn't come when they did, they'd still be due back very quickly anyway.

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