Leadership and school culture questioned in school inspection reports

Reflection – Secondary School


What was the issue addressed?
The leadership, ethos and culture of the school has been questioned following an Estyn Inspection and independent report. Several stories have appeared in the press and a working party was formed to try and resolve certain issues in order to improve the situation.


What happened?
The working party met weekly to begin, and produced a detailed plan. Specific responsibilities were given to specific members of staff and progress reports were required regularly. The meetings then moved to monthly and perhaps lost momentum and focus. It was a very difficult position to be in, particularly because the SMT were defensive and were not open to being challenged.

The local education authority worked closely with the school and governors initially, and a working party was formed. Unfortunately, the support was only given for the first few meetings and I do not believe the issue was addressed effectively or successfully.


What lessons were learnt?
I do not believe this was successful – many points or targets were not met and there was little to no accountability.


Commentary
From the information provided the school has obviously received an unfavourable inspection report. Articles have subsequently appeared in the press, which would not possibly have helped and which may have contributed to negative comments and concerns being received. In these circumstances, it is important for schools to implement their crisis management policy in conjunction with their Local Authority, and in this case, particularly, on how to respond to press comments and parental concerns.

This is always a difficult situation to manage but ultimately, the school whether or not it has been placed in special measures or a category, needs to have a robust action plan in place, to improve areas of concern as soon as possible.

On publication of the inspection report, the governing body must produce an Action Plan within 20 working days. The Action Plan must show what will be achieved and implemented, in response to the inspection recommendations. Please see guidance from Estyn on inspections, as well as Part 4 of the School Governors Handbook.

The governing body must also ensure that the recommendations from the report are built into the School Development Plan and are monitored and evaluated. Reports on progress made by the school should also be communicated in the governors’ annual report to parents.

Even if the Senior Leadership Team are being defensive, there must to be a planned approach to address any recommendations swiftly. It is the role of the governing body after all, to challenge effectively. The governing body should be ensuring it receives all the information it needs to makes sound judgements, and to fulfil its strategic functions effectively, not least to place the school in a better place. Here are some useful tips.

A working group is a useful way to steer the work required for the key actions. Support from the Local Authority, Regional Consortium or Diocesan Authority as applicable, is essential to help the school on its improvement journey. As the school gets back on its feet, this support might inevitably become less. If this happens, it doesn’t mean that the school slows down the progress it is making. It usually means that the school is on the right track to ensure improvement. The Welsh Government has published a new school improvement framework, the National Categorisation will finish and be replaced by a robust self-evaluation system where good practice can be shared and failure is urgently addressed.

Updates on the inspection process and new arrangements for 2021-2022 can be found here.


Reflections…
Has your governing body had to deal with outcomes of poor inspection reports?
What actions have you tried to bring about positive change in the school leadership? Were these successful?


Have your say…
Have you had experiences similar to these?
What do you think about the situation described?


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