Chair’s Blog (March 2016)

Ofsted: A Positive Experience ….

On 27th January my school was informed by Ofsted that we would be subject to a section 8 inspection following concerns raised to Ofsted by an ‘anonymous source’. Apart from the fact I had booked to visit schools in Frankfurt to further international connections for engage in their future on the 28th which I had to cancel, I was a little shocked that an anonymous complaint could result in an inspection. Nevertheless, confident we had nothing to be concerned about, I readied the SLT and staff team and we prepared to showcase our school. Two HMI inspectors arrived, both of which were experienced in SEMH provision and I am pleased to say they were focused on supporting the school through the process.

The focus of their inspection was safeguarding, and from the off I would like to share that we very quickly showed that the complaint raised had no substance to it and in fact there was lots of evidence to show that our safeguarding in terms of practice with both staff and pupils was exemplary and contrary to the elements of the complaint, leading to a conclusion that the ‘anonymous source’ was more than likely malicious in nature, although I need to make it clear that this is my conclusion and not the ‘official’ findings of the HMI’s.

The focus of the inspection was almost in its entirety a page by page comparison for the school’s procedures against the Keeping Children Safe in Education document, which is under constant review and update. One area we did have to clear up was our safer recruitment practice, which on the whole was good but I did miss the update on prohibition checks for staff. Deep in the footnotes of KCSiE (page 27) it outlines how schools should check staff against the DfE ‘Employer Access OnLine‘ service to see if they have been prohibited from working in schools. I had assumed that this was covered in the DBS checking (list 99 section ) but this is not the case so if you are not using the ‘Employer Access on Line’ service please review your recruitment procedures and ensure you do this (Top Tip).

There are some obvious signposts for us to consider after my experience. Firstly it would appear that the safeguarding landscape is such that Ofsted are more likely than not to act on any complaint if a safeguarding nature including ‘anonymous’ sources, which potentially means that we could all be at risk. However, if everything is in place we have nothing to worry about of course as long as the right HMI team arrives at your door? It does however provide a very useful weapon for anyone wishing to ‘inconvenience’ a school, which is worth considering.

Secondly, the importance of the Keeping Children Safe in Education document is absolute, so my advice would be keep on top of this and ensure that you revisit it regularly as it is fluid and under constant review.

I have to say the experience in January was, in the end, completely positive and in fact the last 3 visits I have experienced by Ofsted do appear to have been much more focused on a working together and a focus towards improvement rather than a ‘catch you out’ approach. I think we have been helped as a school to make our practices much more robust and the experience has allowed us to develop a more secure plan from Good towards Outstanding so in all, apart from having to rearrange my visit to Frankfurt until May, it was good to have the confirmation that the school was safe.

Toni Bailey