Schools North East launches new Ofsted online forum to over 400 Head Teachers at annual Ofsted Update

Our annual Ofsted Update on Thursday 28th November saw over 400 Head Teachers and senior leaders join us during the day to learn more about the practical application of the new Ofsted Education Inspection Framework.

The day featured experts from The Key, alongside Head Teachers from local schools sharing their experiences of recent Ofsted inspections. Schools North East Director Chris Zarraga welcomed 200 delegates each to both the morning and afternoon sessions, introducing ConnectEd and its new online Ofsted Chat group, designed to help NE school leaders access advice, resources, and assistance from their colleagues, on the practical implications of the new inspection framework.

The Schools North East online community, ConnectEd, is a place to connect with peers; contribute to discussion; add ideas; support and be supported in your role; share case studies, best practice and information; collaborate; engage in and debate research; and unite schools through networks.

Chris was followed by Kaley Foran from The Key, who spoke to delegates about what the changes are and the focus of the new framework as it is being applied in schools.

Delegates had plenty of opportunity to ask questions, exploring a range of contexts including Early Years and special education, as well as workload and responsibilities for staff. With too many questions to get through on the day, delegates were invited to continue the conversation on Schools North East’s new online forum ‘Ofsted Chat’; a private group on the newly launched online community Schools North East ConnectEd. This group now has nearly 300 NE school leaders on it.

As well as running through all of the changes in content, Kaley outlined what delegates could expect on a practical level, discussing in detail the format of the initial phone conversations, as well as the new “deep dive” format and what it means for teachers, as well as middle and senior leaders. For many delegates this helped to dispel the uncertainty around what takes place, how conversations are conducted and what they need to prepare for.

Kaley’s informative session explored how the focus of the new framework has shifted, with far less emphasis on data and lesson planning, with Ofsted looking at the ‘quality of curriculum’ through conversations and observations instead.

Following The Key, Ian Noble from Boldon School shared his experience of a recent inspection. The school, which had been Requires Improvement since 2007, were recently graded Good. Ian spoke about the huge amount of work his school had done in line with the old framework, much of which was no longer relevant since the changes to the new framework came into force. For Ian, the key was the importance of middle leaders during inspections, ensuring that their understanding was consistent with SLT. He highlighted how inspectors focused on the quality of education, specifically looking at the intent of the curriculum and the inclusion of cultural capital in this.

Sharing her experience at a primary level, Wendy Leeming from Waverley Primary talked about preparing using a pin board, with key information and documentation up on the wall in advance of the call for an inspection. Another useful practical tip was to use an ‘Ofsted Checklist’, which allowed her to identify what needed to be done and who would be responsible for it when the call for an inspection came; this meant SLT, SBM and office staff were more prepared and less frantic about the practical steps that needed to be taken. She explained that inspectors wanted to understand staff’s decision making, follow a model of ‘why this, why now, show me how and tell me what next.’

Both Ian and Wendy reiterated the earlier point from The Key that far less documentation and data needs to be provided in advance. For both, this was a huge benefit, reducing workload and stress for staff. They also both emphasised that quality of education was the key area that inspectors were looking at, focusing on why children are learning what they are and the reasoning behind decisions in the curriculum.

Overall the day was incredibly informative, it was great to hear experiences and practical advice from schools, as well as all of the questions delegates have which we hope to dig deeper into on our online community, ConnectEd.

Almost 300 of the delegates from the day joined the online community, and are contributing to conversations within the group, and resources from the day are being posted there.

If you want to join our online community, Schools North East ConnectEd please sign up here.

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