A specialist school in Woolton has taken part in a pilot for Ofsted which helps inspectors learn about the new inspection framework that will be used from September 2021.
Abbot’s Lea School saw this as an exceptional opportunity to help Ofsted shape its inspection of special schools and also to use it to learn about the process ahead of its own planned inspection which is now overdue, and expected to take place any time, and no later than next school year.
The experience was helpful and positive, and resulted in a number of findings, all of which support the school’s self-evaluation.
Four Ofsted Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMIs), including senior HMIs, praised the school for its clearly presented and well-triangulated strengths.
The school leaders received helpful feedback about the suggested focus for the next steps in the school’s development journey towards becoming an international centre of Autism education, research and professional development, and all of the pointers will feed into the School Development Plan 2021-24 which the school is currently consulting on with the students, staff and the families.
Ofsted benefited too; the experience of practising the new inspection approaches in a special school setting proved particularly helpful for the team and many of the suggestions made by the Abbot’s Lea School leaders will contribute to the revising of the protocols for the actual visits.
Headteacher, Mrs Ania Hildrey said: “As a school leader, I want what is best for my students. This is neither governed, directed or limited by Ofsted inspection framework, handbook or the actual inspection visit process. Ofsted is therefore neither a matrix of what we must do as a school, nor the main indicator of whether we are superb at what we help our students achieve. Ofsted can, however, be a very helpful additional moderator of a school’s effectiveness and so, with that in mind, I always welcome another view and perspective.
“Our engagement in the pilot provided a brilliant opportunity to pause – after a very turbulent time of the pandemic operation – and invite an external view of whether the ambition we have for our students, and the ways in which we support them, is solid.
Mrs Hildrey added: “I am delighted with the appraisal received and it re-affirmed our own evidence that the school is outstanding, particularly in the most complex area of positive behaviour support, personal development and raising aspirations for adulthood and independence.
“As ever, the more you look, the more you find and it was equally helpful to have four pairs of “fresh” eyes, with no prior knowledge of our school, give us feedback on what we could do better. We are actively working through all of the pointers and will include them in our work this term and in the coming year.”
Mrs Hildrey concluded: “As a school we are also committed to improving practice beyond our own walls and so, I am personally very pleased to have been given an opportunity to shape Ofsted’s approach to inspecting special schools and I trust that my feedback will enhance the experience for other schools – and for us, too, as we are in the “inspection window” any time soon!”