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Ofsted are coming - advice about parent letter

(14 Posts)
endymion Wed 26-Mar-14 16:58:05

I used to be Chair of Governors at the school, briefly, while we sought someone with appropriate skill-set who could do an infinitely better job than me. I then stepped down after the GB had found its great Chair and as a result of my crazy workload.

I've just heard that ofsted are coming. We have been asked as parents to comment on the school.

I want to write a letter in addition to parent view because the PV questions are really narrow IMO. But will it look dodgy if I write positive comments given my previous relationship with the school? Even though those views are representative of how I really feel and given that I am no longer a governor and no longer know more about the background than the next parent?

I could get my husband to write a letter instead. But was wondering if anyone knew whether if I or he writes, and Ofsted have sight of GB minutes and put names together, they will think I'm trying to be sly? Or am I overthinking this?

Think part of the reason I'm wary is that I feel desperately for the teachers/head dealing with inspection which has come at a rotten time (not in terms of school being in a poor state, but to do with school journey).

MillyMollyMama Wed 26-Mar-14 18:11:28

If I am truly honest, a single letter from an ex Chair of Governors or a parent will make no difference to Ofsted at all. They will get the full set of circumstances from the Head and current Chair. (Who probably is not better than you!). I would leave it up to them. As a parent you can, of course, write to the Inspector but there is not much point writing a generous letter if you really know the school is in trouble and you are not up to date anyway. Ofsted will concentrate on the quality of teaching and learning and leadership and, unless you know the ins and outs of that, I would be loathe to write. The Inspectors will also be told of the school's "journey". They do get the background info, eg staff turnover, child turnover, other challenges etc and if the staff are improving the school, the inspection may not be as bad as your fear.

However, if you want to be supportive, take in a big cake for the staff room!

Kemmo Wed 26-Mar-14 18:19:28

Honestly?

Don't bother. Instead write to the HT or individual staff members to tell them how you feel.

endymion Wed 26-Mar-14 18:49:11

The staff know how I feel - particularly the head.

Cake is a good idea.

I just have such an immense distrust of ofsted given what I know, that I wanted to put pen to paper to say what I like about the school (which I agree, prob isn't worth the paper it's written on as far as the inspectors are concerned because I suspect that many of the things I value don't factor in their assessment).

The parent view responses are generally positive. A good percentage would recommend the school to others. But again, I suspect that the views of parents come pretty low down in their priorities about what makes a good school, particularly when said school is not an academy in an area where most are now.

I am heartened by the fact that the "journey" the school has been on is taken into account. While many of the governors are relatively new and aren't aware of the massive changes in the last 2 years, some are old-timers. It doesn't help that the last ofsted was good when really it shouldn't have been, even under the previous framework. Different head.

OldRoan Wed 26-Mar-14 18:54:55

When we had Ofsted in, I would have burst into tears if someone (parent, head teacher, passer by) had left a basket of fruit/pastries/breakfast bits and some nice coffee and teabags (along with a note saying thank you) on the morning Ofsted arrived.

It is lovely to know parents are supportive - whether that is a note, cake, breakfast, a giant banner and a fanfare... Personally I think better to go to the school than the inspectors.

MushroomSoup Wed 26-Mar-14 18:55:17

Write a letter or go in and ask to see the inspector. I'm a Head. Trust me, it can make ALL the difference.

Jinsei Wed 26-Mar-14 19:32:17

I would write the letter. I did one when Ofsted came last year, and it got quoted in the report. Our school is truly fantastic, and I felt that the staff deserved the support and recognition - regardless of whether ofsted was interested.

I also took cake! grin

fizzly Wed 26-Mar-14 20:09:48

So glad I have read this thread. Will totally do letter and cake when O come calling - expected soon. Thanks.

endymion Wed 26-Mar-14 21:20:04

Thanks so much for the different points of view.

I have made flapjacks for the staff. And am still pondering the letter situation... smile

poopsydaisy Thu 27-Mar-14 08:16:20

I did the PV questionnaire (Which wasn't great, to be honest, was very generic and didnt let you say what you really thought). I spoke to an inspector in the playground, plus a wrote a letter to ofsted and cc'd the head (it was a nice letter I might add!). I hope that any feedback is good as it means that the parents are engaged and whether they have bad or good things to say, they are engaged enough to put pen to paper and let their thoughts be known.

I'm crap at baking, so a cake might've offended the entire staff room grin

MillyMollyMama Thu 27-Mar-14 09:50:07

Endymion. I think the slightly more worrying aspect of your post is that a lot of the Governors are new. It is vital that they understand, and are realistic about, the qualities of the school. They are not there to be cheerleaders. They must be up to speed on the performance data, what the school is doing to address the issues and show they really understand school improvement, despite previous problems. They really must know what the issues are and not see everything through Rose tinted glasses and lack of experience is no defence! The flapjacks will be appreciated I am sure.

PastSellByDate Thu 27-Mar-14 10:47:10

endymion:

I wrote to OFSTED - because I was deeply concerned about poor maths provision, serious lack of any numerical work in KS1 and the detrimental impact slow-paced/ low aspiration teaching of numeracy skills was having on childrens' math abilities.

I think if you feel strongly that the school is doing X or Y right - and working hard - why not write to them openly as the former chair of governors, explaining what you've witnessed and how you feel about the school's ability to improve.

OFSTED know people have agendas. For me it was utter rage at the complete lack of any numeracy work of value before KS2 which I felt seriously disadvantaged pupils - and indeed was proven right with that year's Y6 class achieving only 62% to NC L4+ in Maths/ English combined.

My feeling is that OFSTED will listen to what you have to say - and use it to inform their judgement.

Endymion Thu 27-Mar-14 16:05:13

Actually millymollymama it's been quite the reverse, thankfully.

Some of the old governors had a very rosy view of the school under the previous head. They were definitely (well-meaning) cheerleaders and the GB as a whole didn't provide adequate challenge.

The new governors are mostly community govs without children at the school and with excellent skills in education. It is a stronger and more challenging GB in terms of questioning the head and meetings became much more honest as a result. The new head was quite clear from the beginning that she felt that the GB needed to have a clear picture of the school rare than a rosy-eyed benevolence at school concerts and so on. Some of the governors who left did so because they didn't feel that they wanted to be party to such negativity in a way, and that's fair enough - the role of the GB has changed and the school has changed and needs to move with the times.

I found myself overwhelmed by work outside of the school and partly, I have to say, wanted to know less - to be able to focus on how happy my children are there rather than to be dragged down by anxiety about the school's progress, the speed of change and so on.

The head has put into practice many new interventions/initiatives and the school feels as a parent like a much happier and more vibrant place. But I think I can only truly appreciate that from outside, rather than from within the GB which I think is indicative of the fact that I made a rubbish chair! I was too close to the action, too keenly aware of how much better the school is than it was (not perfect, but so so much better) to be able to be effective and my background isn't in education so the learning curve was immense. The new governors don't have the baggage and don't have the same gratitude for the new head improving things because they don't all know the background and so I think they are much better at being a critical friend (sometimes more of the critical than the friend) to the head and the SLT.

Endymion Thu 27-Mar-14 16:06:01

Phew - that was an essay!

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