Posted on 05/10/2015

Playing The Hand We’re Dealt

Ofsted announced at the end of last week that the initial inspection for all new publicly funded schools will now be in the third year of operation, not in the second year. So what does this mean for FBS? Is this good or bad news?

In one way it is no news. Whether Ofsted visits this year or next year makes no difference to how our teachers plan and teach their lessons, nor to how rigorously they mark their books and assessments. It doesn’t change how and when we visit lessons, look at books and talk to the boys about their work. It doesn’t impact our relentless focus on improving and increasing the opportunities our boys have in the co-curriculum, and in pursuing the highest standards of behaviour, uniform, attendance and punctuality. So, in some ways it makes no difference when Ofsted come in. They can come in the day after tomorrow and we will be ready (ish!).

However, in another sense it is good news. It gives us more opportunity to demonstrate just how much progress our boys are making.

As I’ve written before, we are ‘levelling’ our boys – assessing them and their progress –  on a scale that reflects what we think the new GCSE levels will be. On this new measure, our first cohort of boys made an average of 4.4 sub levels of progress across all subjects last year. It’s clearly important to parents and boys, as much as Ofsted, that these judgements are accurate, so we have been working hard to standardise and moderate this work with other schools, benchmarking our boys’ projected progress against GCSE attainment by pupils in local schools, London Church of England schools, outstanding private schools and outstanding girls’ schools. We are determined to show, despite not having external examinations for almost another four years, that FBS boys make outstanding progress. In that sense, the more time we have to demonstrate that progress, the better.

However, a visit from Ofsted in year 3 could also be read as less good news. We will still be on our temporary site, and with a further 120 boys. In the course of the year we will move from our temporary site to our permanent home –  not really the time you want Her Majesty’s Inspectors to visit (unless of course they come the week of the move and lend a hand!). But when I think about it more carefully, it gives us a great opportunity to show how robust our systems and procedures are and how our boys live out the school ethos in the most testing of circumstances. We can use it as an opportunity to show just how strong our character is and how resilient and unselfish we are. Boys, Faith and Enterprise will really be under the microscope! Furthermore, it would allow the Department for Education and the Education Funding Agency to show just how creatively they can work with Free schools, providing sites, both permanent and temporary, that are fit for purpose. A chance for us all to grasp the nettle and showcase our talent.

Good news, bad news, no news – we will carry on being FBS.  Whatever the hand we are dealt, we will play it as best we can.

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