Once again we returned to school really early. We knew from the inspection timetable that we would only have the HMI and one other inspector for today. Wednesday was Anita’s turn to be out of class so she went straight to the staffroom to work on finishing the data that we had been asked for. Ruth was in with Mark and they began to set the classroom up ready for the children. We checked over our planning and hand annotated our plan for the day following yesterday’s observations – once gain we wanted to keep things exactly as they always are. Our Head teacher (who is a trained Ofsted inspector) said that our inspector would seek us out during the day as he wanted to give us feedback. We also knew that the inspection team had spent time discussing our EYFS ‘grading’ and we were close to being given an outstanding. We couldn’t decide if this was extra pressure or not after being in Special Measures for so long!
As it turned out the inspectors didn’t return to the classroom at all! Our inspector kept popping in to speak to Anita to ask clarifying questions about the data. During the morning the inspector spoke to Anita and gave her feedback on the observations and overall EYFS grading. After he had finished Mark popped in and Anita asked the inspector to repeat the feedback to Mark. He was highly complementary about our practice and provision and praised the children and their independence, motivation and engagement. He praised our teaching and how we have a clear knowledge of early development and we enhance our provision accordingly. He told us that we had nearly all of the criteria for ‘outstanding’ but because of one thing he was unfortunately going to award us a good. Aaaaaaargh! He explained that he wanted to see even more detail in our use of data – specifically for supporting vulnerable learners to make rapid (and specific) progress. If we had written down that we wanted Child A to learn letter sounds ‘m,a,s,d,t,i,n’ by 24th October and then made mention of how we were supporting this, we would have been awarded an outstanding grading. Anita had asked if there was any way to prove that we do this already and then coincidentally Mark asked exactly the same thing but the inspector mentioned that it was too late for us to make changes in this way.
Anita met with the inspector and our assessment coordinator (Deputy Head) to talk through the data. We knew by then that the grading had been decided and in fact we were just providing headline data for the report. However, most of what Anita had spent HOURS calculating was not even looked at – even though it had been asked for…. Sigh! We knew that nobody would have an observation from either inspector this afternoon which was a relief. We finished the day and met most of the staff and governors to discuss our inspection. Staff knew that our grading was ‘good’, although this wasn’t technically official and we weren’t allowed to discuss this outside of the staffroom. The inspection finished with the HMI reporting back to the SLT and governors to summarise her findings and give final judgements. We all sat and waited for the team to return to the staffroom – cue cheers, tears and a visit to the pub! After 3 years of hard, hard work our efforts had paid off. Hurrah!
Our next blog will summarise our top tips for Ofsted under the new framework!
The inspection starts!
We arrived early, before the birds had even risen!!! This gave us time to ensure that the classroom was set up in a way that we were happy with and to also make sure that we had all the resources to hand. Our Inspection team had provided our Head with a detailed timetable of the day, so we knew that we would have an inspector in with us for most of the morning. However EYFS have a separate judgement on an OFSTED report, so we had expected to see inspectors throughout most of the process. Day 1 of the inspection coincided with Mark's PPA morning so Ruth was in during the morning.
The inspection team arrived at 8am and went straight into the Head's office where they were based for the duration. We met the inspection team (1 HMI and 2 inspectors) at 8.15 as they took a learning walk around the school. We continued to get ourselves ready for the children coming in at 8.45 - where the children came in to the same activities as they always did - we were determined to keep things the same so that inspectors would see how independent and resourceful our children are. They self registered and we moved into Continuous Provision (indoor and outdoor). We had 2 TAs inside overseeing the classrooms, as well as working with our 'vulnerable learners' on their letter sounds. The inspector arrived at 9.05 and immediately began to make notes. He walked around 1 of the classrooms (we are an open plan 'unit' consisting of 2 classrooms with no wall in between) and looked at the provision - displays, activities etc. Anita pounced straight away (we had said to each other that we were going to ensure that the inspection team saw every part of our provision - regardless if they asked or not!!)! She explained self-registration, how we then do the register and that we were moving into Continuous Provision. As Anita drew his attention to all of our planning Mark arrived in the classroom to also chip in! We talked through our planning process (very quickly, without taking a breath, because we knew that we only had a limited amount of time to prove ourselves!) and also our 'Wonder Walls', deconstructed role play, classroom layout and how children are at the heart of our provision. Anita invited the inspector to come outside to see the outdoor provision and to explain how everything had moved on since our last inspection and the reasons behind our enhancements.
Ruth and Anita stayed outside, observing and playing alongside the children, using the Objective Led Planning. After observing the provision outside, watching and making notes on how the adults were interacting with the children, the inspector asked Anita about 'vulnerable learners'. He went on to ask Anita if she had time to talk more about a particular Pupil Premium child so that he could track their progress across the year so far. Anita came back inside and sat at a table, talking about the particular child that she had highlighted outside. The inspector wanted to know the child's starting point, progress and what support we had put in place. He also asked for evidence to back up what we had been saying. Mark joined the table and the discussion expanded to include another PP child in his class. The Wonder Walls really proved their worth because we could lead the inspector to look at the individual spaces but also compare them with their peers. The children came back into the classroom to get changed for PE during the rest of the day. Anita's class went off to do PE with our school sports coach and Mark's class stayed with Ruth to do Core Learning Skills (PSHE), eat snack and do some music. The inspector went outside to see the children do some PE, returned to the Head's Office and then came back into the classroom to observe Ruth delivering Core Learning Skills - they were talking about feelings, using photos to identify feelings. The inspector left as that group moved to get their snack and we didn't see any inspectors for the rest of the morning. (They didn't come back to see phonics after break.) However one of the questions from the inspector was about the starting points of the current cohort and the progress made since. Unfortunately, because we had just moved to a new computerised assessment system, we weren't able to print off what we needed to straight away so Mark spent the rest of the morning wrestling data!
In the afternoon Mark's class went to PE with the sports coach and Anita did Core Learning Skills about feelings. The HMI inspector walked through the classroom, looked around the provision and eventually went outside to see the PE coach. She returned to observe Anita's session and left after 5 minutes. We were aware that the HMI visiting could mean that we were on the cusp of moving from one grading to another and this made us a little nervous! There was a timetabled meeting for the head of EYFS (Anita) and the inspector for after school, and we asked if Mark could attend too because we work together so closely.
To begin the meeting he asked us about our 'journey' since our last inspection. We talked for a VERY long time covering lots of subjects so that we felt confident that we had said everything we wanted to. This included how we had done lots of reading and research, visited other schools, professional development and of course we mentioned Ace Early Years! We then moved on to talk about the current cohort and the progress they had made. We used our data to support what we were saying - with Anita talking to the inspector and Mark using the laptop to interrogate the data in order to answer specific questions. The inspector had forms to fill in and wrote pages and pages of notes (letting us talk lots!) but also had a very clear idea of what evidence he wanted to gather and how it would be useful to see this (i.e. percentages!). During the meeting he asked questions about our previous cohort and because of our new data system we couldn't provide him with the data straight away. He was very understanding and asked if we could come back the next day with the breakdown of our data. Thank goodness we had paper copies of the key end-of-year data! We spent the evening calculating the progress made by specific groups (girls/boys/PP/summer born) across the year, including percentages that started below age-related expectations (ARE) and their progress to the end of year. We also calculated the percentage of children who were at ARE or above ARE and the progress that they had made. He basically wanted us to prove to him that we were making progress in all areas, were supporting vulnerable learners to make rapid progress and were pushing the more able too. It was 10 o'clock when we decided that we would call it a night and Anita would finish the data during her leadership PPA time the next day.
To be continued...
A long evening...!
We had the phone call from Ofsted on a Monday so after the children had gone home we grabbed a cuppa and settled ourselves! We spent an hour or so in the classroom. We did our own learning walk around our provision for 2 reasons:
After checking our environment we then sat and looked over our plans. We knew that we were NOT going to change our activities for Ofsted - we wanted them to see how we run day-to-day. Plus, our children would have grassed us up to the inspectors anyway! We tightened up on ensuring that the adults knew what their role was going to be during each session/part of the day and we ensured that all staff had copies of the planning. We also reminded ourselves of our plan to cover for a member of staff if they were required to spend 1:1 time with a particular child - something that had happened because of on-going behaviour.
Our next step was to sit and look over our 'Ofsted File'. Since our last Ofsted inspection we had been collecting all of the information that we would need for another inspection. This including data (previous cohort data, starting points, trends, comparisons to county level and national data) pupil progress meeting notes, our EYFS action plan, copies of planning, records of observations both in school and from other schools, training we've undertaken, etc. We made sure everything was in order and we knew where everything was. We then spent a long time making sure that our current data was ready. We updated our computer records to ensure that our most recent observations were recorded. We also 'interrogated' the data so that we were clear on progress across different groups and identified any gaps and made plans to tackle these. We knew our data well already as we use it every week to inform our planning but this was a tightening up and evidence finding exercise.
Luckily for us we work with a fab team and we arrived in the staffroom to find 4 steaming hot pizzas! Our fab (secret!) third member of Ace Early Years, Ruth, had popped back to school (because she doesn't work on a Monday) to keep everyone going!
To be continued...!
We've often talked about how Ace Early Years was created as part of a long journey but we thought it might be useful to explain the background behind our long overdue Ofsted!
We had an Ofsted inspection 3 years ago. At the time we were in a very different place in terms of freedom to explore our own best practise. We were heavily tied to how the rest of the school planned and expectations were very different to how they are now. During the inspection we were observed several times - during phonics and maths sessions. The feedback we had criticised the amount of time the children were outside (not enough!), the amount of free play the children had (not enough!), the lack of challenge for the more able and the lack of progress unsupervised groups were making. While we didn't agree that the observations were fair or accurate (for example the inspectors assumed we didn't provide enough access to outside based on the fact that during their short observations they didn't witness the children outside) when the report came out the entire school entered special measures.
The result of entering special measures was that the school became an academy and there was a change of leadership. It was an incredibly hard time but we value the many lessons we learned during this time. The changes to the school meant that we were able to apply for money to make changes to our provision and this was spent in two main areas: knocking down a wall between the 2 Reception classrooms and developing the outside provision.
In combination with the 'structural' changes, our new leadership placed a lot of faith in us and we were given freedom to explore different ways of planning and delivering our provision. We made changes to our assessment processes, planning, timetable, visited lots of other schools and also did a huge amount of research and reading around to find different ideas. We firmly believed that children were at the heart of our provision so to reflect this our provision continued to change steadily over time.
We had an interim Ofsted visit and this informed the school that we were making good progress and our academy sponsors arranged for us to have a 'Mocksted'! We were pleased with how this went but continued to adapt and change our provision. Eventually in March 2015 we had the call that we were going to have our long overdue inspection the following day. Unfortunately due to a bereavement it was postponed and we continued to wait.
Finally, 7 months after our initial call from OFSTED, on October the 19th we received the call that we would have our inspection over the following 2 days. Of course panic mode sets in but we knew that we were totally ready to prove to them that our school, provision, assessments systems and ethos are working and we were certainly NOT a special measures school!
Inspection Day One.........to be continued!