How to look after yourself during an Ofsted | Education Support Partnership

How to look after yourself during an Ofsted

It’s always important that you try to take good care of yourself but before and during an Ofsted you need to be extra nice to yourself. Here’s how to survive and even thrive during an Ofsted.

Ofsted. The one word that often strikes terror into teachers and teaching assistants’ hearts. Though the inspectorate has begun to recognize the strain and worry this causes and has even published a reassuring guide to show it has listened to teachers’ concerns, it still causes teachers a great deal of anxiety. A lot of this though is anticipatory anxiety where the fear of the event is often worse than the actuality. Recognising this can be a big step to helping you deal with your next Ofsted. Especially as last year Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman signalled a clear change in direction. “Inspection should not be making your job unnecessarily difficult or laborious...I won’t be pushing you to jump through increasingly convoluted hoops.”

Ofsted no longer requires lesson plans, nor does it grade lessons. Inspectors don’t expect to see any particular frequency, type or volume of marking so long as assessment aligns with school policy. 

Myth buster

Publishing a detailed “myth buster” about what Ofsted didn’t want to see alongside a new inspection handbook, Ofsted finally appeared to be listening to concerns. As Emma Kell described in How to Survive in Teaching: “it is a sad and stressful truth that that…Ofsted, since its inception in 1992, had been repeatedly associated with attempts to belittle, undermine and intimidate teachers.”

Now, Kell writes, “Ofsted has changed dramatically, and infinitely, for the better. I never would have imagined writing in favour of Ofsted a decade ago.” Her recent experience of Ofsted was radically different.

Collaborative approach

After her most recent inspection Helen Clarkson, from Shade Primary School in Todmordon, has some very reassuring words about the newer style of Ofsted. “My staff said it was stress free compared to other inspections. Throughout the day, it felt extremely collaborative. The morning consisted of a learning walk through the school with discussion about what we had seen – it really was a discussion.

“Right from the phone call with the inspector, I was put at my ease. He made it clear I had control in the process of who I might like him to see… all the myths that Ofsted have been working hard to eradicate were really put to bed. The whole day was about the children get day in, day out.”

Faith in yourself

“In terms of teaching, just do what you do. Make sure your marking is in line with policy and don’t try anything overly clever that you wouldn’t normally do. Have faith in yourselves – if you are doing well and children are making progress, they will see that,” advises Mike Smart headteacher of Beeches Junior School, Birmingham.

“Keep calm and trust the messages that are coming from Ofsted. Look at the frameworks so you know what they will and won’t ask to see – that way you will be on the front foot with documents you need and you won’t waste your time on things that aren’t needed,” he adds.

Ofsted is looking for a lot less than it used to. Inspectors have made clear they do not grade lessons. So there really is much less to feel stressful about.

Don’t let let Ofsted define you

Our recent YouGov report into the health of teachers revealed 75% of teaching staff still experience psychological, physical or behavioural symptoms through increased workloand and poor work-life balance. This stress is inevitably worse around the time of an Ofsted.

To avoid this being such a tough time it’s important not to let Ofsted define you or your school, says Viv Grant who supports school leaders. “If you have invested time in developing yourself, managing your responses to stress and developing a deep understanding of who you are you will find Ofsted a lot less worrying.”

Ten top tips to deal with Ofsted stress

  • Don’t spend hours making new data sheets. Show inspectors what you use every day
  • Don’t have realms of additional information crammed into files especially for the inspectorate
  • Know your students and be honest
  • Don’t hide any children – one head told us an inspector had a lovely chat with one of his school’s more challenging students
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions
  • Don’t worry too much about your marking - Ofsted does not expect to see a certain type of marking or feedback. As long as you’re clear with the inspectorate about how your marking works and they can see it’s consistent
  • Lesson plans are not needed
  • Be prepared to talk about how you ensure children are safe at your school and have evidence of children feeling safe      
  • Trust the inspectorate more - after years of broken relationships between Ofsted and teachers, Ofsted finally appears to be listening
  • And finally… “mocksteads” are a waste of time. The extra work and stress caused by them just aren’t worth it – and they’re on Ofsted’s radar

How we can help

  • Help for individuals  
    Sometimes work (or just life) can be tough. A challenging student, an Ofsted inspection, personal financial worries; there are many stresses on those who work in education. That’s why we offer free, confidential help and support, no matter what your problem.
  • Help for organisations 
    Working in education is demanding so we’ve designed a set of services to help you check how your teams are coping, troubleshoot problems and boost everyone’s wellbeing.