Ofsted's blog: A section 8 inspection in Buckinghamshire – a headteacher’s perspective

25th June 2018 at 09:03

Dan Lambert, Her Majesty’s inspector, recently carried out a section 8 short inspection at Oldbrook First School, near Milton Keynes. So what did headteacher, Kirk Hopkins (pictured), think of the inspection? How did the section 8 compare with previous section 5 inspections?

Here, Kirk tells us about his experience.

The initial phone call

I’ve experienced many Ofsted inspections over the past 17 years, as a teacher and a headteacher. Our last section 5 inspection at Oldbrook was in November 2012. Our most recent section 8 inspection was in February 2018.

We received a telephone call telling us that there would be a section 8 inspection the following day. We were told that the lead inspector, Dan Lambert HMI, would contact us to finalise arrangements and provide an overview of the inspection.

My assistant headteacher took the initial phone call as I wasn't on site. This gave me time to gather my thoughts and the documentation to support the inspection process. Like with previous inspections, the call was about finalising the inspection plan and timetabling. There was an emphasis on working together throughout the inspection. Dan was very supportive and flexible in his approach.

On the day of the inspection, Dan led an introduction session for all the staff. Unlike previous inspections, this had more of a positive team approach and put the staff at ease. It gave us a good understanding of how the one-day inspection would feel, compared with the longer section 5 inspections, which normally last for two full days. 

School children

The self-evaluation meeting

We had the self-evaluation meeting at the start of the inspection. We explained how we undertake self-evaluation and how we use this to make improvements and ensure good outcomes for our children. The inspection data summary report and the school development plan helped to set the lines of enquiry and the direction of the day. The inspectors concentrated on the key areas that we’d already identified, which was very reassuring.

Partnership working

Our experience of the section 8 short inspection framework was positive. It focused heavily on working in partnership with the inspectors and there were many opportunities for professional discussion. At all stages, we felt valued as professionals and, most importantly, listened to. The key message that the inspection team took away was that we know our pupils, our school and our community.

In previous section 5 inspections, we had joint observations. This section 8 inspection centred on learning and teaching based around our key lines of enquiry. We dipped in and out of lessons, sharply focusing on these aspects. We talked about a recent Diwali coffee morning, where Hindu parents joined us. We respect and celebrate different cultures, and they shared their beliefs and traditions with parents of other faiths.

For most of the day, we worked alongside the inspectors. This was great professional development for myself and other leaders. It also helped a middle leader experience some monitoring exercises. This inspection seemed more focused and collaborative than previous ones, and we spent more time with the inspectors than before. The teachers felt valued and listened to. Afterwards, they said that they preferred the one-day inspection.

Feedback and letter to secure further improvement

A detailed and purposeful feedback session was much appreciated by our school leaders and stakeholders. It highlighted the school’s many strengths and the areas for improvement, which were mentioned in the letter and were well received by staff and the school community. The inspectors were impressed with how knowledgeable, challenging and supportive our governors are.

This section 8 inspection had a completely different feel to previous ones. The day was intense, but it was a positive and refreshing experience. We shared the school’s strengths and the inspection challenged our thinking on areas for development. It was a good opportunity to share and celebrate the great things we do for our school and community.

The report’s highlights were: The pupils are enthusiastic and make good progress. The leadership team has maintained the good quality of education in the school. Dan especially mentioned the inclusiveness, good leadership and effective safeguarding of the school.