Leading English in Primary Schools

Leading English –  Installing your Ofsted update

Leading learning in school is a hard job. Leading learning when it covers reading, writing, phonics, spelling, handwriting, and speaking and listening is tough. We can’t promise to give you a magic wand but in this article we’ve applied the principle of ‘forewarned is forearmed’ and collated a number of links to Ofsted updates to help you ‘Ofsted proof’ you subject leadership.


The latest release

Unsurprisingly, our starting point is the current Ofsted framework. Whilst not greeted with the euphoria of the latest i-phone, Ofsted updates happen just about as regularly as the latest release from Apple. Unlike Apple launches, they don’t receive blanket press coverage meaning you have to search for them on the Ofsted website.

We’ve had the current Ofsted framework for a little over a year now but did you know it was updated in September of this year? Like the i-phone it’s not a major overhaul. And, just like it’s cellular cousin it’s been subject to user feedback – in the form of evaluation of section 5  inspections.

Whilst consistent high standards in signal coverage concern rural and coastal phone users our Ofsted colleagues have noticed there is a similar pattern in the quality of schools in these areas. Consequently Ofsted have upgraded their schedule to ensure that all children attend a good school.

Check your operating system

Now the changes to the Ofsted framework may not be major but it’s our operating system and there have been some changes. You need to check your systems for compatibility and iron out any glitches. There have been a few small changes to the grade descriptors. In behaviour there is now a greater emphasis on learning behaviours which has implications for you as an English subject leader. Let’s take guided reading as an example. What’s the quality of independent learning in guided reading across the school? Do children know what to do if they need help? Are they able to solve problems in reading? How resilient are they when decoding unfamiliar text? So, if you want to move practice from good to great in guided reading it may be that you need to look at the behaviour descriptors.

If you’re leading English in a secondary school be aware that inspectors will now hear children in Y7 and Y8 read. Remember this will not just be about decoding but their comprehension of what they’ve read, their ability to infer and deduce and their enjoyment of reading.

In fact as a secondary teacher you need to be particularly aware of Ofsted’s report into the achievement and progress of able pupils. Primary colleagues, you may think you’ve been let off the hook here. However,  the transition of youngsters as they move between KS2 and KS3 is always an important topic, meaning this is a document you should take a look at.

There has been  keen interest in the achievement of groups of learners for some time. This has sharpened. You need to know the key groups in your school, how they achieve and significantly what progress they make. With specific reference to those pupils in receipt of the pupil premium  their progress in English and mathematics should match that of other groups. Do you know this data? Is this the pattern in your school? As an English subject leader you need to know this information. Furthermore, you need to know what you’re doing to ensure that this group of pupils makes progress? And the impact of what you’ve done.

Install software updates

It’s not only the Inspection Handbook that has been updated. Other key Ofsted documentation has been refreshed and all subject leaders need to update their software accordingly. By key documents I mean: the Framework for School Inspection; the School Inspection Handbook; and, the Subsidiary Guidance for Inspectors.  The third one tells inspectors how to go about their task of inspecting – it is an invaluable resource for school leaders as in effect it directs them how to conduct their school improvement activities. It’s already in its third version since September this year! You need to download the latest version and press delete on all other versions in school.

Improve user knowledge

Harvest what you can from good practitioners. If you’re on the web reading blogs and articles by other educators there’s a strong chance you’re already doing just that. Remember though, that Ofsted are not just inspectors, they’re school improvement experts. They have a wealth of knowledge from thousands of hours spent in some of the best schools in our country. Ofsted subject surveys include vignettes of outstanding practice from schools around the country. Download it, visit the websites of the schools involved and use what you can. We’ve shared English at the CrossroadsReading by six and Moving English Forward with our subject leaders and regularly return to them to look for examples of best practice.

We’ll be returning to Ofsted and how they can help us improve our subject leadership soon. We know that not all Ofsted inspections are a positive experience but when we can use the expertise that does exist within the organisation then we can reduce user error and improve the educational interface for everyone involved.

This is the first in a series of articles inspired by our work with Paul Weston HMI, who has been working with us here in Coventry for the past few months. Paul’s sharpened our focus on leading teaching and learning for maximum impact and effect – and whilst these are our words, we thank Paul for the advice that inspired this article.

Rachel Clarke – Primary English Consultant

Share this article: