How to Make Your School Outstanding Inline with Ofsted

By Bethany Spencer on May, 10 2017
Estimated time to read: 7 minutes

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There’s a lot at stake in a school‭. ‬Especially at this time‭, ‬when teachers have never been under more pressure and half the workforce‭ ‬are considering leaving the profession altogether in the next couple of years‭. ‬Schools as a whole are under pressure to perform‭ ‬well‭.ofsted outstanding rating

With that in mind‭, ‬we’ve reviewed the Ofsted guidelines to discover what they are looking for in an‭ ‬“Outstanding”‭ ‬school‭. ‬The five key judgements and how they are made are outlined below‭. ‬Each element can be judged inadequate‭, ‬requires improvement‭, ‬good‭, ‬or Outstanding‭. ‬

Overall effectiveness

As part of assessing the overall effectiveness of your school‭, ‬inspectors are asked to consider the experience of your students‭.‬‭ ‬Is the quality of their education Outstanding‭? ‬In order for overall effectiveness to be judged as Outstanding‭, ‬the other four key judgements must be graded Outstanding‭. ‬

A key consideration is the‭ ‬‘effectiveness and impact of the provision for pupils’‭ ‬spiritual‭, ‬moral‭, ‬social and cultural development‭.‬’‭ ‬In short‭, ‬this necessitates the ability of pupils to be respectful of others‭, ‬reflective about their own experiences‭, ‬to be inspired to learn and be creative‭, ‬to be conscientious‭, ‬to be aware of their cultural heritage and how central the democratic process is to the development of modern Britain‭. ‬

Subjects like PSHE‭, ‬Citizenship and Politics are instrumental in exploring these areas with students‭. ‬Inspectors will assess whether or not students with extra learning needs or disabilities are sufficiently supported‭, ‬and whether or not safeguarding is effective‭. Safeguarding in schools is a huge topic and there a lot of resources available to help schools tackle it‭. ‬Ofsted offer‭ ‬their own guide‭, ‬there are dedicated websites such as‭ ‬Safeguarding in Schools‭, ‬and the NSPCC provide advice on‭ ‬their website‭.‬

Effectiveness of leadership and management

Effectiveness of leadership and management applies both to leaders within the school and governors‭. ‬Central to this judgement is‭ ‬a consistency of vision held by leaders‭, ‬and evidence of cooperation‭, ‬working towards that common goal‭. ‬In addition‭, ‬this vision must be effectively communicated to parents and students‭.‬ This key judgement can be partially evidenced by how far the leadership team has managed to create and maintain a culture of high aspiration and achievement in both academic and vocational arenas‭. ‬

Keeping morale high in spite of the fear and pressure that‭ ‬teachers are under is difficult‭, ‬but showing support and encouragement will help to keep happiness levels up‭. ‬Ensuring that staff are happy is important not only to their well-being and performance but also to your pupils’‭ ‬performance‭. ‬Ofsted looks for evidence of good relationships between staff‭, ‬and between teachers and pupils‭. ‬Support‭, ‬encouragement‭, ‬and opportunities for CPD will help teachers feel valued within their school‭.

Ofsted looks for evidence of good relationships between staff‭, ‬and between teachers and pupils

‬Extra-curricular clubs may be helpful in breaking down barriers in the relationships between teachers and pupils‭. ‬Seeing each other outside of the formal setting of the classroom may encourage students to view their teachers as people as well as authority figures‭. ‬Inspectors will be especially interested in any NQTs in the school and how they are supported‭. ‬We’ve created‭ ‬some resources to help NQTs through their first year‭. ‬

Challenges to leadership or criticism from within the school or from parents should be addressed‭. ‬It is important to create an environment for open‭, ‬honest discussion between stakeholders‭. ‬Teaching should be exemplary and all staff should engage with each‭ ‬other to improve and adapt to the evolving needs of the classroom‭.‬

At several points throughout the document‭, ‬the inspection handbook stresses the importance of efforts to combat radicalisation‭. ‬In order to be deemed Outstanding‭, ‬‘‭[‬l]eaders’‭ ‬work to protect pupils from radicalisation and extremism is exemplary‭.‬’‭ ‬These efforts can only be successful in a open-minded environment where students feel safe and respectful of their teachers‭. ‬

Below are some ways for teachers to promote good relationships with their students‭: ‬

  • Engage and connect with students‭. ‬Use their first names and express an interest in their lives‭. ‬One-on-one interactions will help students feel like more than another filled chair in the classroom‭.‬
  • Create a positive classroom environment‭, ‬where students feel like their teachers care about their well-being‭. ‬Look out for students who maybe need a little extra support with their studies or with their confidence‭.‬
  • Encourage and help foster good relationships between students in your class‭. ‬Positive‭, ‬healthy relationships between students will make maintaining good behaviour easier and will mean students look forward to class‭. ‬This attitude will help lessons be truly‭ ‬successful‭.‬

Quality of teaching‭, ‬learning and assessment

To assess the quality of teaching‭, ‬inspectors will examine planning‭, ‬observe lessons‭, ‬look at marking‭, ‬as well as speaking to students about their learning‭. ‬Pupils will be expected to be able to reflect on what they’ve learned and their experiences‭. ‬The inspection takes into account not just how well students are prepared for exams‭, ‬but how they are prepared for life as part of a modern British society‭. ‬

Time in the classroom is used well‭: ‬topics introduced effectively and resources coordinated well‭. ‬The expectations of pupils should be clear and behaviour must be consistently and effectively managed‭. ‬Teachers must be aware of the extent of their students’‭ ‬abilities‭, ‬to ensure that no one is left behind‭, ‬but that those performing well aren’t allowed to plateau or coast‭. ‬Constructive feedback is crucial to facilitate the students’‭ ‬improvement‭. ‬

In order to be Outstanding‭, ‬teachers must be supporting pupils to improve in the classroom‭, ‬but also by setting challenging homework to consolidate their learning from home‭. ‬Having a robust homework policy will allow SLT to ensure not only that the right homework is being set but also that there is a clear way of monitoring and tracking it‭.‬

Personal development‭, ‬behaviour and welfare

In this key judgement‭, ‬pupil welfare is considered closely‭. ‬Inspectors will examine attendance levels as well as behaviour‭, ‬and‭ ‬trends over time‭. ‬Discipline systems will be examined including rates of exclusions‭.‬ Also considered will be the general culture of the school‭, ‬monitored by inspectors‭, ‬observed both in the‭ ‬classroom and at breaks‭. ‬Outstanding schools will have conscientious students who value their education and take pride in their‭ ‬school‭.

‬It is a huge task to improve the atmosphere at a whole school level‭, ‬but not insurmountable‭. ‬Small steps can make a huge‭ ‬difference‭. ‬Encouraging staff to say a simple thanks to their colleagues and show appreciation can build team spirit‭. ‬A good attitude begins at the top and trickles down‭.‬

"With rising rates of mental illness it is also vital that students are well educated about their emotional and mental wellbeing"

In Outstanding schools there is a strong sense of respect amongst staff and between teachers and students‭. ‬Teachers and students‭ ‬alike work to tackle problems like bullying and work to raise awareness of the different forms it can take‭. ‬Students should feel safe in school and should be able to keep themselves safe with the school’s support‭. ‬

Subjects like Food Technology and PE will offer invaluable knowledge and skills that students can use to take care of their health‭. ‬With rising rates of mental illness it is also vital that students are well educated about their emotional and mental well-being‭. ‬PSHE is a great opportunity to give students the tools they need to be prepared for life outside of school‭, ‬with scope to‭ ‬cover a range of topics from sexual health to career planning‭.

Outcomes for pupils

This key judgement is assessed on the basis of students’‭ ‬progress and achievements‭. ‬To be Outstanding‭, ‬progress across the board should be above average‭; ‬attainment should be‭ ‬‘broadly in line with national averages or‭, ‬if below these‭, ‬it is improving rapidly‭.‬’‭ ‬Disadvantaged students‭, ‬students with disabilities‭, ‬or special educational needs should be supported so that they have the same‭ ‬opportunities to succeed‭.‬

In addition to good progression‭, ‬students should be able to reflect and report on their own knowledge with their peers and with‭ ‬adults‭. ‬This can be facilitated by providing students with the tools to easily view their own progression‭. Self-marking and peer‭ ‬marking will help students to understand the assessment criteria‭. ‬Students should be encouraged to read beyond their studies and take initiative with their own learning‭.

"Careers fairs‭, ‬workshops‭, ‬and work experience placements can help to build confidence in students"

Beyond school‭, ‬students should be prepared for what comes next whether it’s work‭, ‬training‭, ‬or further/higher education‭. ‬To be Outstanding, Ofsted specifies that there should be a greater percentage of students who go onto further/higher education‭, ‬employment‭, ‬training‭, ‬or apprenticeships compared to the national average‭. ‬

Whatever the next steps for your students‭, ‬they should have had the opportunity to explore different opportunities‭. ‬Careers fairs‭, ‬workshops‭, ‬and work experience placements can help to build confidence in students and give them a taste of a career they might never have considered‭.‬


In lifting the main points from the criteria in each key judgement we’ve tried to condense a lot of information into something digestible‭. ‬We don’t have the space to cover everything but we hope you’ve found our article helpful‭. ‬

The factor that kept creeping up in every area‭, ‬is the ability of all stakeholders to reflect on their own responsibility area‭, ‬from students to teachers‭, ‬to governors‭. ‬Being aware of strengths and weaknesses across the school‭, ‬and the ability to consider these with a fresh set of eyes‭, ‬is the first step that will allow leaders to take action to move towards‭ ‬‘Outstanding’‭.‬


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