Ofsted's blog: Chris Russell, Ofsted's Regional Director, South East, on collaborating to help disadvantaged pupils

11th July 2017 at 09:02

Ofsted and educational leaders work to help disadvantaged pupils

The South East’s educational achievements were evident in our Annual Report last year. We could clearly see the positive results of teachers and senior leaders’ hard work. But, there was still a concern about the poor outcomes for those from disadvantaged backgrounds, something that has dogged the region for too long.

With that in mind, this school year we’ve been working with school leaders and other education professionals to try and improve the lot of disadvantaged pupils across the region. And I’m pleased to say that this has been collaborative working at its best.

The feedback has been very positive. One headteacher was enthusiastic.


The determination, at the top of Ofsted, to work with school leaders to improve the lot of disadvantaged pupils is admirable," he said. "I found it inspiring to work with talented and successful leaders and learn from their expertise and enthusiasm."


Meeting senior leaders

So this has been a busy year talking with senior school leaders and a wide range of people interested and involved in education in the area. This included local authority leaders and representatives from multi-academy trusts. We have also regularly spoken with school improvement officers. And we talked to leaders of teaching school alliances and diocesan representatives.

We’ve run several events across the region, which I’m pleased to say have been very useful for everyone. I’m confident that schools have gone away from these events enthused about developing their own resources to support their work.

“Working with school leaders to help improve disadvantaged pupils’ achievements has been invaluable. It's been a fabulous opportunity to meet colleagues who have achieved good results,” commented Naureen Kausar, Commissioned Services Manager, Buckinghamshire Learning Trust, following one of our events. Also adding: “I’ve been able to bring this back to my local authority and share it with others. I've organised conferences in my area. And colleagues I've met through the working group have delivered keynote speeches.”

Tools for the job

This collaboration has been very productive and I hope school leaders find the tool kit that our partners have developed useful. It is really important to stress that these aren’t ‘Ofsted-approved’ approaches, but intended to support schools in their work in this area.

Some of the things the tool kit includes are:

  • Questions and activities to support self-evaluation.
  • A thinking template. This will help develop a long-term, strategic approach, taking in to account the local area.
  • Ideas for improving engagement and involvement with pupils and parents.
  • A workbook for leaders at all levels, including governors. This can be used with other schools. 

We had more positive feedback from Wokingham Borough Council. Emily Waddilove, Teaching and Learning Adviser, and other colleagues, used what they learnt to help them organise a Pupil Premium conference. Inspectors they met spoke at the conference and also attended network meetings. “I know that our local authorities found that the initiative influenced our work with schools,” explains Emily.

Reviewing and improving – what inspectors look at

And it hasn’t just been about helping others look at what they do. We also looked at how inspectors collect evidence about disadvantaged pupils during inspection. Then we reviewed and refined it. Every inspection is different, but a few things we might look at include:

  • checking out leaders’ findings and conclusions during the inspection
  • looking at what’s provided for disadvantaged pupils and their results
  • gathering evidence during lessons about these pupils’ learning over time
  • making comparisons between the school’s current and past performance information
  • talking to disadvantaged pupils and scrutinising the quality of their work
  • gathering evidence about the effectiveness of any extra provision
  • evaluating the attendance and behaviour of disadvantaged pupils.

Leaders have told us that this approach has led to fair, balanced and clear judgements. It’s also helped to pinpoint areas for improvement.

I’m very pleased this collaborative work had been useful.  It shows the power of what we can do when we work together to improve things. We intend to build on this success in the coming year, so if you have any further thoughts or ideas, please do get in touch. You can email us about this blog or anything else.