Inspections are exercises which aim to identify gaps that you your school has created. Close these gaps and see the inspection run smoothly.
Focus on attainment and achievement will take care of itself. Focusing on achievement is about accepting you do not intend to make a significant difference to this child’s life chances…
An inspection is an exercise in measuring the gap between realities. Different people are bound to have their own views about your area:
Staff working in the area you manage
Your managers/ SLT/ Headteacher
In the case of an inspection, there is only one perception that matters: the inspectors’.
However, inspectors do not start from a personal view point. It is irrelevant whether they like the way you manage your areas or don’t. They are only interested in impact which can be substantiated by data.
So, if your headteacher describes your area in one way, you describe it differently and your colleagues and pupils describe a totally different reality, you are in for a kicking in terms of capacity to improve and leadership. If you cannot agree on what you are doing, how will this impact on outcomes?
Remember, leadership is assessed throughout the school not just at SLT level.
The implication is that you must be inclusive and ensure that everyone is on the same page. Once more, your point of view has little relevance here. You need to have an evidence base about what is good and not so good in your area.
In other words, you need to lead a robust self-evaluation. As your SLT is also involved in this exercise, it is important for you to link up with your management and see how your self-evaluation will feed into the school’s self-evaluation.
Once you have finished an inclusive self-evaluation, everyone should have the same understanding of what is good and what is not so good. This is a milestone towards creating an outstanding area.
Once the ‘not so good bits’ are identified, the idea is to develop a coherent planned approach to solving the issues. This needs to be organised as a project with multiple strands. Who is doing what by when?
There is a danger of mixing outputs with outcomes when setting goals. The target is not to launch Read Write Inc for example, the target is to improve literacy at the end of a key stage from one level to another. In this case the target is to raise attainment to a specific level, you are going to do it by deploying Read Write Inc and John oversees that it is done properly.
If you are inspected at this stage, it is worth pointing out that all this work will have little impact on the inspectors’ judgement.
The key, once you have identified that there is a need, that you know what to do to reach a specific target is to monitor impact.
So, you launch read Write Inc and you monitor the impact it has on outcomes. As there is a tracking system within Read Write Inc, assessing the progress pupils make is easy. This tells you whether you are on track to reach your target.
At this stage the inspectors will see serious evidence of management:
there is evidence of some kind of an audit to establish a base-line;
there is evidence of inclusivity;
there is evidence that areas to improve have been clearly defined;
there is evidence that interventions/ changes have been put in place;
there is evidence that you monitor the impact of these changes;
and there might be evidence that you have found out that something did not work and so have made more changes (this is gold dust as it convinces the inspector that the area is managed robustly.
There is one last hurdle. This is where most problems arise from. Some managers are convinced that they do all the above but are very dismayed when it has no impact on the eventual report. This is because, invariably, the targets are too low.
There is indeed no point doing well something not worth doing in the first place- in this case working hard to reach low targets.
So are they:
working at targets?
So much time has been spent on this. Here is the answer: Consider that every child is your child:
Where is this child likely to get to at the end of his/ her time in the school? This is the
flightpath. This is based on attainment not achievement. If you are pleased a child has
achieved and made expected progress, this is little consolation if there is no attainment.
Focusing on achievement instead of attainment is more comfortable and might be the first step towards acknowledging that you might not make that much of a difference on this child’s life chances:
what difference are you going to make to this child who could be your child? This has to be higher than the flightpath;
now calculate the outcomes of all your cohort based on these more than flight path targets.
The results should be better than any other school in your family, better than the LA and definitely better than nationally. You are here to make a difference after all. If your
expected results do not meet these criteria then you need to go back to your list and
increase the target grades of specific students until you meet these criteria.
By the way, if 100% of pupils are expected to reach a level at the end of a phase, then the target is 100%.
If you have avoided the pitfalls of finding excuses for your pupils or refusing to increase the target of one specific child in order to meet the cohort’s target, you probably have a set of individual targets which are very high.
This is when the real work comes in. Obviously, if you keep doing what you have done then you will not reach these targets. So, you must innovate. This means setting a clear set of expectations to your team members and encouraging an innovative approach. At this stage, you will find the job exciting.
You are not here to run things, you are here to make things better.
You know where you need your pupils to be. You know that it is unlikely for some as things are.
What are you going to change to make sure that targets are met?
Enjoy your job and remember, you are not on your own and many other middle leaders have made miracles year-in year -out. Why cannot it be you? Get in touch if you you want to explore this further.