Ofsted dealings coming out of the pandemic.

The school I work in was deemed Outstanding in January 2008. We had a one-day inspection (based completely in a room discussing data and school practices) in 2012, which enabled us to retain our Outstanding grade.

My reality, as we come out of the pandemic.

  1. Huge staff shortages – on a weekly basis staff off ill and Covid cases again on the rise within the school community. Supply cover hard to get. We are very lucky to have a healthy school budget and each class still has at least one teaching assistant full time.
  2. Children entering early years are extremely attention needy. Many parents overly protective because of the pandemic, which has resulted in extra meetings to discuss school protocols and expectations. Finding ways to work together for the common goal - the child.
  3. Emotional wellbeing of children – emotional support and strategies for behaviour have played a large part of my teaching year to date. With support agencies overwhelmed and diagnosis for some children at the earliest a year away.
  4. Transition from nursery into reception - more individual needs have added increased one-to-one extra transition support.

All the above are necessary to aid the children, to ensure they are ‘ready and open to learning’. Ofsted, and the daily worry of the phone call until Wednesday late afternoon, is a huge cloud constantly hanging overhead.

I don’t believe an Ofsted inspector can tell us as a school any more than we already know ourselves. We constantly challenge ourselves with regards to the curriculum we provide. We always question and discuss new ways to deliver subjects and content. What better use of time could my role as early years leader and assistant head be spent on instead of constantly updating subject leader files?

We have also spent thousands of pounds on purchasing a synthetic phonics programme. Why? Because Ofsted expects this. Our school has always performed well at the end of reception. We are in the top five per cent of schools in Hertfordshire for a good level of development. We have continually performed higher than the national and Hertfordshire levels. Our phonics screening results are, again, above national and Hertfordshire performance scores.

Why change something that works? This is just one example of many that has taken time and funding away from the focus we should have … each individual child in our care on a daily basis.

I constantly worry about the inspectors we will have walk through our door when the call finally arrives. I have heard horror stories about inspectors and their lack of knowledge of certain subjects and early years. The system is not right in its current form. Yes, we are accountable. Yes, we should have some form of regulatory visit to ensure standards continue. However, in its current form, Ofsted isn’t working. It takes us away from other things and ensures we spend valuable time creating documents to prove we know our job, questioning our professionalism.

Phillipa Kearns is an NEU Leadership member and assistant head teacher of a primary school in Cambridgeshire. She sits on the NEU’s Leadership National Council.