Yesterday was our annual Greater Manchester special school leadership conference and we were really pleased to have Mary Rayner HMI there to speak to us about the implementation of the Common Inspection Framework in the special school context, the implications of national working groups on achievement and evaluation of progress and the Local Area Inspection Framework with regards to schools being part of the local area.
The 50 or so people that attended the conference found Mary’s presentation informative, helpful and reassuring and therefore I felt it would be useful to share the key points she spoke about to a wider audience.
Mary is one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors ( HMI) and is one of Ofsted’s National Leads for SEND. Mary’s substantial leadership experience in the special and mainstream sector gives her immense credibility and her knowledge and experience of the full range of childruen and young people we work with was evident throughout her presentation.
Mary began by emphasising her belief in ‘removal of labels’ such as SLD / PMLD in the sense that geographically these can mean different things to different people. What counts is the individual child, their individual needs and how we can meet them. How could anyone disagree with that?
Common inspection framework – key messages from Mary
- The CIF is intended to provide coherence, clarity and comparability – schools judged against the same set of standards
Teaching Learning and Assessment
- Assessment is now in the right place as assessment SHOULD be informing Teaching and learning
- As inspectors must take account of learning, Mary challenged us as leaders to really consider what it is we value in our school ( e.g. in special school context independence / self help skills, developing of friendships etc) and if we value these things – how do we measure them / show evidence of progress? We need to decide what is good progress for our learners. Inspectors can only take account of information if it is evidenced and moderated to ensure judgements are consistent. The CIF gives us an opportunity to be able to state what we value as part of our ethos – but we have the responsibility to evidence how it impacts on our pupils.
- We need to tell our school story very clearly and concisely – e.g. if our cohort of pupils has changed and it has meant we have responded and changed our practice – how? why? impact?
- There is no requirement for ‘data’ to be in a certain format – it can be in many forms – including where relevant and appropriate video evidence for example. As long as you show and evidence progress in a way that is relevant and appropriate to your school and your pupils – that is fine. Important to also take account of pupils for who may have conditions which mean for them there is regression in skills. Make sure their story is told.
- Define in your own school what pupil ‘work’ is – what does it look like? where would you find it? where would you look for evidence of progress over time? DVDs? Displays?
- Most important – school practice MUST reflect school policy! e.g. there is no requirement for particular systems of marking – however – if policy says particular requirement then that is what should be seen.
- Assessment – doesn’t matter what you call it in your school – how do you know it is right? How do you baseline? Measure? moderate to ensure consistency? – using trusted professionals from other schools is sensible to support the process. Don’t avoid moderation with others in other schools even if using different systems – using them to check your systems are robust
- Need to ensure breadth / depth / range of evidence – if teaching some curriculum areas within others on the timetable – that is fine but needs to be clear
- Are you sure that all your teachers have the same high expectations?
- Who are your groups in school – you can decide within your own context – how do you define them?
- Baseline is really important. Age, starting points AND time in school are all important as part of measuring and judging progress. Make sure for your own school you have considered what the judgements are and why
- This is our opportunity to measure all the things we value and present them in a way that is meaningful AND informs next steps
- Assessment is linked to curriculum but doesn’t define it
Personal development, behaviour and welfare
- Think about what is must be like to be a pupil at your school – kneel down – see it from their perspective
- Ensure you are considering preparation for the next stage of education
- Only use B code in register for actual teaching when you as a school know what is happening and you are monitoring it as a school
- Improvement in behaviour? How do you know? What are you measuring?
- You can consider resilience, self – help and independence in this category
- No longer rule of 3 years of data
- Professional judgement is important alongside other information you will provide
- Rochford review – interim report – tried to fill gaps between P8 and what were National curriculum levels. Rochford review have been considering P levels – recommendations currently with ministers and should be published soon
- P levels can be just a reporting tool. Many schools also use as an assessment tool but don’t have to.
- Use networks to create comparative information which can be used to evidence progress
- Can talk about regression and for some children sustaining achievement
Leadership and management
- What you do, why do you do it and what is the impact?
- What is uncompromising ambition in your school ? Define it for yourselves.
- Do governors share same passion and understanding? Do they understand pupil groups? Do they challenge and support leadership ?
- What is the effectiveness of SMSC
- Is vision and ethos clear on website? What information is on your website and what messages does it send about your school. Remember – inspectors will look at this before coming into your school to consider their ‘lines of enquiry’
With regards to Local Area inspections, Mary was just urging us to play our part in the overall information gathering in relation to SEND when inspectors come into school to look at EHCP plans and talk to various stakeholders about their experience of the process.
What was interesting was that after Mary had spoken, there were very few questions. The reason for this was that everybody had felt that Mary had answered the questions they had wanted to ask during her presentation. I hope sharing this with you has answered some of your questions too.
With my best wishes