A tale of two inspections.

Adrian Elliott's picture
I've read two Ofsted inspection reports recently which thrown an interesting light on the debate over the best way forward in school improvement.

The first was a school which was one of the first in the area to become an academy after the 2010 election. At the time as a local authority maintained school it had been deemed outstanding in its last Ofsted inspection. But at its most recent inspection it was judged to be in need of significant improvement and, in a significant comment, inspectors noted that the school
''has been through a period, up to September 2011, where a substantial proportion of its leaders have been engaged in supporting the work of other schools. During this time middle managers and other senior leaders were unable to sustain improvement in key subject areas.''

Clearly, this comment raises questions about the sustainabilty of the single model of school improvement preferred by neo-conservatives like Michael Gove.

The other report was on a much smaller school which until recently has been governed by an interim executive board,(IEB) of which I have been a member, after the previous governing body got itself into serious difficulties. After a borderline satisfactory judgement, shortly after the IEB had taken over, the school was inspected again recently. This time the inspectors decided the school was good and called the IEB 'highly effective'.

They also commented that the local authority ''provides light touch support for this good school. It gave intensive and highly effective support when the school was in difficulties..'' The chairman of the IEB (a local businessman with no political axe to grind) has said the support from the LA has been ''quite outstanding''.

Henry Stewart, Janet Downs and others have provided convincing national evidence against the single improvement model put forward by the DfE and its allies in the media. The experience of what is actually happening on the ground in schools might well support their arguments.
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Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 12/10/2012 - 14:23

Thank you, Adrian, for this insight. I wonder how many other Ofsted reports praise the support given to schools by their local authorities?

agov's picture
Sat, 13/10/2012 - 11:56

"where a substantial proportion of its leaders have been engaged in supporting the work of other schools"

I've been wondering for a while exactly how these 'teaching schools' manage to look after their own schools while also having time and resources to improve other schools.

I suppose they don't.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 13/10/2012 - 12:12

agov - the late Ted Wragg once posed this question in the TES:

Q How do you recognise Executive Principals?

A You don't. They're never in their schools.

agov's picture
Sun, 14/10/2012 - 11:38

Thank you Janet.

Seems Ofsted now confirms his accuracy.

Sub_Standard's picture
Mon, 15/10/2012 - 10:52

Another example, converter Academy dropped from grade 1 to grade 2.

"Following the last inspection, when the school was judged outstanding overall, management support was offered to a local school in challenging circumstance. The school openly admits that it was mistaken in believing that it had the capacity to support another school whilst also striving to maintain and raise standards. School leaders are correct to identify this as a contributing factor to the dip in students' performance in 2010-2011. It is a measure of the school’s now good capacity for further sustained improvement that lessons have been learnt and that the strong organisation and operation of the current senior team have restored students’ good progress. At the same time, it is clear that if the school is to return to an outstanding judgement, a full focus is required on the students rather than also supporting less highly achieving schools."

Adrian Elliott's picture
Mon, 15/10/2012 - 15:29

Sub Standard

This is a fascinating extract . It puts the case much more directly than the example I gave.
Michael Gove made it clear early in his time as Sec. of State. that a key way forward for school improvement would be successful schools (i.e academies) helping weaker ones .

Yet I haven't a shred of doubt that, as a head of successful school for nearly twenty years, I couldn't have even begun to match the quality of support given recently to the school of which I have been an IEB member by local authority officers and advisers.

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