Thursday, October 13, 2011

A journey from 'satisfactory' to 'good' and 'outstanding'

(Note: I am no longer a Governor at Pippins School referred to in the post below - I am now a Governor at Herschel Grammar School in Slough).

A local school where I'm governor has recently undergone inspection by the UK government education sector regulator Ofsted. I’ve been a governor at the school for several years, and I was closely involved in the recent inspection.

The previous Ofsted inspection took place during 2009 shortly after the current head-teacher took the reins, and at that time the school was deemed to be just ‘satisfactory’. However, over the past three years the head-teacher and her senior leadership team have driven a significant transformation at the school, and the recent Ofsted inspection report has found that the school is now ‘good’ overall, which is a significant improvement and clearly demonstrates that the recent changes have had a massive positive impact on educational standards since the previous inspection. The recent report comments positively about the significant advances made by the school, in all areas.

It’s such a fantastic achievement by everyone associated with the school, and since my daughter is a pupil it’s also a ‘proud father’ moment as well as a ‘proud governor’ moment.

However, I’m not one for getting overly carried away by success, and as I tell my kids there’s always room for further improvement. Consequently I’ve been reflecting upon how this transformation was achieved and, perhaps more importantly, what can be done to increase standards further moving forward; or in the terminology of Ofsted inspectors, what do we need to do to move the school from ‘good’ to ‘outstanding’?

It’s absolutely clear to me, and evidently also clear to the Ofsted inspector, that the success of our recent transformation is a direct result of improved leadership. The organisation has undergone some changes, and there is now much more focus on clarity of purpose, common goals, and setting of meaningful objectives. Staff at the school are motivated, enthusiastic and clearly enjoying their roles and responsibilities. As a consequence the children are safer and more secure, happier, and benefitting from an improved learning experience.

Our journey from ‘satisfactory’ to ‘good’ has been achieved through what I would describe as management best-practice and inspirational leadership. My feeling is that the journey from ‘good’ to ‘outstanding’ will require a different approach. It seems that in order to demonstrate a school is 'outstanding' the school must have a unique value proposition that underpins it's core values and defines it's identity, and that will require innovation as well as continued excellence in management and leadership.

As our chair of governors quite rightly reminded us recently “we need to make sure we can walk properly before we start to run”, which is something I also tell my kids from time to time. Whatever, I’m confident that like most toddlers learning to get around in the world, it won’t be long before we’re increasing the length of our strides and stretching our legs in some new and interesting directions.