5 lessons for when your school is in special measures

Getting a negative Ofsted rating can feel like a blow - but this teacher who has been there says it’s important to keep perspective

special measures ofsted

Being put into special measures by Ofsted can be a bruising experience. 

But any teacher worth their chalk knows how to learn a lesson from any situation. 

The situation is that my school – a large comprehensive in the North West of England – has gone from "outstanding" to "good" to special measures in three consecutive Ofsteds, each under a new headteacher.


Quick read: 5 lessons from an inspection under Ofsted's new regime

Quick listen: The truth about mental health in schools

Want to know more? What US schools can learn from England’s teachers


Having experienced what it’s like to teach in both an "outstanding" school and one in special measures (all from the same classroom), there are a number of lessons to be learned. 

You have not suddenly become a terrible teacher

It’s vital to remember that no one teacher is responsible for an Ofsted rating, even if the inspection was a nightmare for you and everything went wrong. 

Everyone has days like that occasionally and special measures means that there are some big problems across the school and over time. Don’t take it personally.

Ratings are not at random

An Ofsted rating may be harsh but they are never entirely undeserved. Being honest about the school’s failings and accepting which ones we may be guilty of is the first step to addressing them and improving the situation.

Change is on the way 

Change can seem threatening, especially if your confidence has been knocked, but it is undeniably necessary in this situation. If nothing needed changing, the school wouldn’t be in special measures in the first place.

Many changes will probably be whole-school, but consider your own practice. If things worked well, keep doing them. But if not, try something new.

As Einstein apparently said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Training days are here again

Schools have been ridiculously underfunded over the past few years, and for many teachers days off to attend courses have become a thing of the past.

But now your line managers will be motivated to bring in new ideas and try new things.

If the cost of attending a course is still prohibitive, ask for a day out to visit a school that’s doing well.

Most schools are happy to welcome visitors and the only cost then is your cover. Likewise, now might be a good time to ask if you’d like some extra planning time with your colleagues.

Your work-life balance is even more important now

Teacher mental health is reaching crisis point nationally, with excessive workload a contributing factor. Excessive and (therefore unhelpful) workload has been cited by Ofsted as a reason for putting some schools into special measures, mine included. 

It’s a stressful situation and you need to take care of yourself first and foremost or you’ll be no good to anyone at work or at home. 

It’s very easy to lose perspective, but remember that you are the same teacher you’ve always been, no better and no worse. 

More importantly, you have a right to a life outside of work; this is imperative to reducing stress and keeping yourself healthy. As important as teaching is, it is not more important than your health.

And at school? Things can only get better.

The writer is a teacher in the North West of England

 

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