Changes to the way OFSTED inspects schools

message by Ian Barker, Chief Executive Officer

Changes to the way OFSTED inspects schools

I’m often asked by parents if our special schools are inspected against different criteria than mainstream schools. The simple answer is ‘No’. Until July this year, all schools are judged as outstanding, good, requiring improvement or inadequate on the basis of a one or two day visit by one or more OFSTED inspectors.

Inspectors make judgements about leadership and management, teaching, learning and assessment, behaviour and personal development of pupils, and pupil outcomes. They also report on safeguarding, British values and how any additional money in the form of a pupil, catch-up or sports premium is spent.

Meeting the highest standards against these criteria is a particular challenge for SEMH schools such as ours. Many of our pupils join us with a history of poor school attendance, with difficulties that often present in the form of poor behaviour, and with inevitable gaps in their skills and knowledge. A fair few also find change difficult, and the inspection process itself can be unnerving for them, with ‘strangers in their midst’.

Helping pupils to overcome such anxieties, attend regularly, behave well and achieve as well as their mainstream peers in national examinations is our bread and butter, but it’s not for the faint-hearted. Fortunately, across the Trust, we have a strong team of resilient teachers and support staff, many of whom have devoted years of their lives to helping pupils with social, emotional and mental health issues.

Currently, in three of our five schools, pupil attendance exceeds 90%, a remarkable achievement. The other two schools are prioritising attendance and their numbers are also on the rise. Additionally, almost all our school leavers go on to employment, training or education when they leave us, ready for the next stage of their lives.

We are delighted that there are parents and carers who comment on how well their children do in our schools, especially when compared with what has happened elsewhere prior to the Northern House experience. I suppose that’s why so many of these youngsters turn up every day and love being a Northern House pupil.

From September 2019, OFSTED will be less inclined to judge a school by how well pupils do in exams and tests, and put more emphasis on the quality of the school experience from the pupils’ point of view. We are confident of scoring well in this area, given the many extra-curricular, vocational and therapeutic experiences available to our pupils.

Do take a look at our websites. Here you will see pictures and stories of pupils thriving. We are very glad that future inspections  will be less focussed on data collection and give proper regard to the delivery of a well balanced curriculum.

Mr Ian Barker, CEO
Mr Ian Barker, CEO