It's Ofsted that makes us sweat, not swine flu
Keep calm and carry on! This is my new motto and it's what my school has been doing since my last column - not because we fear a swine flu outbreak, but because of the scale of all we've had to cope with this year.
My deputy presented me with a Keep Calm and Carry On poster after my husband's diagnosis with cancer. This coupled with our unfortunate Ofsted experience and the deaths of two pupils made us wonder what else could go wrong. So the poster was a timely reminder that we must keep doing what needs to be done. It now has pride of place in my office and proved very useful when I interviewed some nervous candidates recently. I just pointed to the poster and told them to carry on - and it worked.
This poster was part of a wartime strategy intended to comfort the nation in the face of a possible Nazi invasion. In our case it wasn't the Germans but Ofsted we had to fight off.
A few weeks ago, the inspectors returned to monitor our progress, as a school with a notice to improve. It wasn't long after Year 11 went on study leave, but we managed to muster some to be interviewed. The inspectors came for one day and made a real effort to look at all the evidence we produced to show them the progress we had made. This time they found the time to see the people we wanted them to see and to look at the key documentation.
There is no doubt we were well prepared. If it moved, we had the data to prove it. So we were delighted to be told we had made good progress. The feedback was so positive - and such a change from the previous visit - that I wanted to cry, but I decided I'd done enough of that the first time around. We knew we'd made good progress, but having it confirmed was brilliant.
The visit proved so positive, it's given us the confidence to aim higher next time. But we have great concerns about the new Ofsted framework and about the changing goalposts. We have a new self-evaluation form to write for September, but are still not sure what the new format will be. We are told to be honest, but I fear this has been my downfall in the past. I pride myself on being open, but perhaps I need to be more selective with the truth next time. We don't know if we will have a no-notice inspection. We don't know what the benchmarks will be. All the training courses on the new framework are planned from mid-October, but we could have a visit in September.
This year, we start our new timetable in June rather than September, so no time is wasted. We hope it will help us avoid some of the criticism we received last year, when we were told some teachers did not have good enough relationships with pupils for effective group work. The fact we were three weeks into the term and had a two-week timetable escaped their notice and was not considered a good excuse.
On a lighter note, it would be great if Ofsted were to make a judgment on our swine flu plan, which is a joy to behold. We need to keep the swine at bay as we want to be open when Ofsted comes knocking this autumn.
Much rests on our GCSE results, which will be set in August. Staff and pupils have done their bit, but we will not rest until the results are published. Whatever comes our way, we are just going to keep calm and carry on.
Kenny Frederick, Headteacher of George Green's Community School, Tower Hamlets, east London.