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Five things school leaders should remember after bad news from Ofsted

Too many schools fail to respond in a productive way to negative Ofsted judgements, according to a teacher in the North East of England.

Writing in the 17 April issue of TES, Trevor Milton (a pseudonym) says that a bad Ofsted inspection is a huge blow and managing the fallout is the ultimate test of a senior leadership team’s mettle.

“The school is bruised and it takes only a small misstep to make a bad situation even worse,” he writes. “Unfortunately, the tact needed to galvanise staff to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and get back in the saddle is often lacking.”

Milton offers a blueprint for how things should be done – here is a summary of the five tips he offers in the magazine:

1. Avoid the blame game
Attempts to single out departments or individuals as "having let the side down" just distracts from where the real failure lies – which is with the senior leadership team. They’re paid to take responsibility, and any failure to face up to that responsibility is deeply suspect.

2. Stand by your team
If you’ve previously emphasised that the staff are a close-knit team – or even a family – continue to do so after the inspection. Anything else will only cause resentment. A good family supports each other through challenging times, and so should yours. If you’re going to use the analogy, stick with it.

3. Don’t scrap good work that went unnoticed
If you’ve tried to improve particular areas in the build-up to the visit, but Ofsted didn’t single them out for praise, don’t just ditch them. Their inspection is not the only indicator of quality. Indeed, ditching a scheme that you think is having a positive impact immediately after the judgement shows a lack of consideration of your school’s long-term well-being.

4. Allow time to grieve
A scathing Ofsted report is a serious thing and it is perfectly understandable for staff to be downhearted. Allow them the luxury of being upset. When you are at your lowest ebb, there is nothing worse than being told to perk up and put a smile on your face. A period of grace should be given – let staff lick their wounds before you start injecting positivity and discussing the next steps.

5. Be ready a plan for the future
There should be a visible plan for improvement in place before Ofsted pass their final judgement. That way, swift action can be taken once the grieving period is over – a pre-emptive plan can offer the type of focus that a team needs to get back on its feet. This plan should focus on attainable goals in the short, medium and long term, and should be communicated in a non-judgemental way – that’s your best chance of salvaging some optimism for the future.

For the full story, get the 17 April edition of TES on your tablet or phone or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents.


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