Be prepared for Ofsted inspections
Support for SENCOs
The new inspection framework has four key areas of judgement:
Ofsted teams will naturally want to focus on those pupils who are not making expected progress and look at what the school is doing to address the issues
- pupils’ achievement
- quality of teaching
- behaviour and safety of pupils
- quality of leadership and management.
In addition, inspectors consider how well the school promotes pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and the extent to which all pupils’ needs are being met – including those with special educational needs or disabilities. Ofsted teams will naturally want to focus on those pupils who are not making expected progress and look at what the school is doing to address the issues.
These are, of course, whole-school issues, but, as SENCO, you are going to be an important contributor to the school’s response during an Ofsted inspection.
Being ready for inspection
There are some key points to maintaining a good state of readiness:
- know what you (and your team) are doing, how and when
- know why you are doing it
- know what is working well and not so well
- know how you plan to improve and develop provision
- keep concise, accessible and well-organised evidence to support everything you say.
Know what you (and your team) are doing, how and when
Your provision mapping documentation will embody this information. Make sure it is regularly updated, with details of interventions and names of staff and pupils involved. Have a clear description of intervention programmes being followed and resources used and an overview of how TAs are used for classroom support.
Know why you are doing it
Pre-empt challenging questions by having a rationale for every aspect of provision
Pre-empt challenging questions by having a rationale for every aspect of provision, including ‘we tried that but it didn’t work so we are now doing this ... and will evaluate it at the end of term’ or ‘we are providing staff training on ASD because four new pupils have been identified as having autism to different degrees’. Be ready to explain constraints and how you are ensuring value for money.
Know what is working well and not so well
Evaluate every intervention as an on-going process. Use assessment data, pupil tracking, pupil interviews and teacher or parent comments to build up an accurate picture of effective practice. Record classroom observations as evidence of good, inclusive teaching of SEND pupils and examples of effective support from teaching assistants (TAs) or learning support assistants (LSAs).
Know how you plan to improve and develop provision
Ofsted inspectors will not expect everything to be perfect. Be ready to identify areas for improvement, possibly linked to whole-school development planning, and be able to suggest how changes can be made for the better.
Keep concise, accessible and well-organised evidence to support everything you say
Get into a routine of adding to ‘evidence’ folders and filing documents on a regular basis, possibly with help from an admin assistant. Consider adding a brief note to files on a weekly basis to form a sort of professional journal, commenting on new developments, making evaluative judgements, including quotes from colleagues, pupils and parents, e.g., ‘Jack’s mum telephoned today to say how pleased she is with his progress. The extra 1:1 support he’s getting with Mrs Smith has really helped his reading and built up his confidence. He is happier to come to school’.
Consider preparing a few concise case studies of SEND pupils who have made good progress. Include ‘before’ and ‘after’ samples of work, attendance tally and reading scores as well as qualitative data, such as teacher comments about improved behaviour or handing in homework on time.
Before the inspection
You should be familiar with any trends identified from analysis of whole-school data and be ready to explain the measures in place to address underachievement
Find out from the headteacher if there are particular issues the inspectors are going to explore; you can then spend some time preparing your responses to possible questions, selecting appropriate evidence and getting your ‘story’ ready. You should be familiar with any trends identified from analysis of whole-school data and be ready to explain the measures in place to address underachievement.
Remind staff of their responsibilities to SEND pupils and the importance of knowing the nature of their particular needs and how these can be addressed (including what is specified on a statement). For lessons to be judged ‘outstanding’, there will be close collaboration between the teacher and the TA, with the assistant actively deployed in enhancing learning and achievement for the supported pupils.
During the inspection
Double-check that all support staff have a clear understanding of their precise roles and objectives for each day. Present a model of calm and optimism; be encouraging and appreciative.
In your meeting with the inspector, try to be yourself. You are the professional doing the job and doing it well! Show that your work dovetails into whole-school policy and supports the ethos. Be ready with examples of success – interventions that have proved particularly effective; plaudits from parents and colleagues; pupils who have made exceptional progress. If you do get ‘caught out’, perhaps with something that should have been done but slipped off your radar, be honest; but make sure you give the impression that it will be addressed as soon as possible.