The visit of Ofsted is rarely welcomed by schools. It means tiring preparation, intense scrutiny, and a stressful wait. Despite their best efforts, schools often come away with an unimpressive Ofsted report or downgraded rating. So, what should your school do in the face of a poor Ofsted report?
We recently wrote about the importance of a good response to a poor Ofsted report and highlighted some key features of a good communication. With this in mind, we wanted to showcase some real-life examples of school responses to Ofsted that we believe were well executed.
The Grange School — Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire
In January 2018, The Grange School received a poor Ofsted report. They were rated “requires improvement” in every category of their 11 to 16 provision. The Ofsted report also listed 10 areas in which the school could improve. It didn’t make for the best of reading.
Despite the negativity, the school produced a remarkably good response to the Ofsted report. They developed a 42-page two-year ‘Ofsted Action Plan’. The plan listed four priorities. While two of them were to conduct reviews, the others went into great detail about how improvements would be made.
Some school action plans do not directly refer to an Ofsted report. While this is fine, when you are reacting to such a negative Ofsted report, it is wise to address it directly. Each priority in the The Grange School’s plan aligns with quotes from the Ofsted report and is broken down into objectives and expected outcomes.
The Grange School provided parents and the school community with a detailed response to Ofsted. This shows the school to address everyone’s concerns, be proactive in making changes, and be intent on making improvements.
Lesson to Learn: An action plan reassures parents that changes are coming and the school has identified the path to improvement.
John Madejski Academy — Reading, Berkshire
Following a poor ofsted report, it's important for the principal at the school in question to show leadership. At John Madejski Academy in Reading, that's exactly what Principal Camilla Thornalley demonstrated.
In an open letter to parents and to the press, the school’s principal presented her response to the report in January 2020. Acknowledging the report's identification of the school as requiring improvement, the school used the letter to explain how they have already started working on this improvement, and how they plan to continue.
John Madejski Academy got their Ofsted report response almost perfect. They did not apologise for the Ofsted rating, nor did they make excuses for it. Instead, they accepted the findings, discussed a school development plan, and reassured and informed parents about their plans for specific issues raised in the report.
“In order for us to make rapid progress, we must continue to address the areas in which improvements are required."
“I am very pleased with our current team of staff, who are working extremely hard to further improve outcomes for our students, and it is encouraging that the rate of staff turnover at our school is reducing.”
The academy didn't just talk about where they need to improve, but also highlighted what they are already doing to improve. They also used the letter to call on the community to work together as part of this improvement. The letter ends with an invitation to a rapidly growing parents forum where parents can have their say and contribute to the leadership of the school.
Lesson to Learn: Parents don’t want to hear excuses or apologies; they want actions. A response such as this instils confidence and starts to counteract the effects of the Ofsted rating and report.
Robert Miles Junior School — Bingham, Nottingham
Our third and final example is a little different to the others. It is a response to a disappointing Ofsted report, but Robert Miles Junior School was still rated ‘good’ by Ofsted. The reason it was a negative result is that they had previously been judged ‘outstanding’. The school needed to explain why a downgrade had occurred.
In normal circumstances, we wouldn’t encourage offering too much mitigation. However, in this case, the reasons given by the school are accurate. In a letter to parents, the school’s headteacher gave the following assessment:
“It would be an entirely reasonable question to ask why I am so pleased when the overall judgement has moved from Outstanding to Good since the previous inspection. The answer to that is that from last September a new Ofsted framework was put into place that has moved the goalposts considerably, with the intention of making it far harder to gain the top grades.”
The headteacher goes on to praise the more demanding standards implemented by the Ofsted changes.
Following the explanation, the headteacher goes on to express positivity for the report. After all, being rated ‘good’ by Ofsted is still impressive. Without quoting the report, the letter refers to areas in which the school was commended and highlights the praise given by Ofsted.
Finally, the letter moves on to the sign of any good response to a poor Ofsted report — a commitment to improvement. The headteacher says they are “eager and keen to meet the challenges ahead” and will do everything in their power to continue to raise attainment. While the emphasis has been on positives, this nod to making improvements is a great reassurance for parents.
Lesson to Learn: Striking a balance between optimism and progress is crucial. A positive attitude, when combined with a commitment to improvement, will ease parents’ worries.
Improve Your School’s Communication with Parents
No school wants to receive a poor Ofsted report. But, if faced with Ofsted criticism, a well-planned and constructive response can limit the damage.
School communication with parents is important, and so is getting it right. At Eduprise, we work with schools throughout the UK to perfect their communication with parents and the school community.
Whether your school needs advice on communicating bad news positively or to improve communication in general, we'd love to help. Find out more about how we can help nurture your school's reputation on our services page.