JLife offers a first-hand perspective into the school inspection framework, as well as an overview of some of the region’s best schools.
Jeremy Dunford, executive head teacher of Leeds Jewish Free School, offers a first-hand perspective into the school inspection framework and what the outcome can mean.
For many head teachers, clock watching between noon and 2pm is a habit. They watch with either trepidation, anxiety or anticipation. They are clock watching because they know their school is in the window for inspection by Ofsted.
Most of these heads will be hoping for a ‘good’ team (of inspectors). Anecdotal evidence from colleagues often refers to the vagaries of the application of a standard model; a standard model that regularly changes.
Many have welcomed some of the most recent changes, moving from a reliance on data and lesson observations to a full and combined picture. Data analysis and observing teaching is still an important part of the model but these are now being compared closely to the long-term view of the work in books, the impact of marking, and feedback and the progress being made over time.
Possibly more challenging is the need to demonstrate that pupils are learning about British values and understand their meaning and importance within their own context. These values are not explicit and written down in any great detail and so each school must approach this in their own way. For faith schools, the need to demonstrate that students learn about other faiths and beliefs is essential as part of this. This applies to all schools, including the independent sector.
Gaining the ultimate accolade of ‘outstanding’ is quite rightly getting harder and harder every year and the current ‘good’ (which was once enough to get ‘outstanding’) is the lowest level of two acceptable judgements. What this then means, varies from school to school. If the school is in direct competition with the independent sector, a judgement of ‘good’ can mean that pupils are lost to local private schools. A judgement of ‘needs improvement’ or ‘inadequate’ may mean that even families of faith may leave a school for a better local authority option, placing secular education above the faith-based provision.
For head teachers, a weak outcome can result in them losing their job and career, while governing bodies can be replaced. On the other side, careers can be made and schools can start to roll out their offer as a model for others.
So as these heads watch the clock tick each afternoon, spare a thought for them as this ominous/ fortuitous process waits to judge the fate of their school.
Top of the Class
JLife takes a look at the outstanding educational opportunities across Leeds and the surrounding areas.
Leeds Jewish Free School
Just over one year ago, Leeds Jewish Free School (LJFS) opened with eight pioneering pupils. Some questioned a school opening with such low numbers. Was it viable or an appropriate use of public funds? Would the community support it and would it have a negative impact on other Jewish schools?
As the school starts 2015 the numbers have risen to 25 pupils and another 20 are expected in September 2015. An increasing number of Leeds-based Jewish families are choosing it, with pupils from other faith backgrounds also seeing it as the best choice for their education.
While the start was slow, it is now starting to pick up steam and plans are already being made for 2017 when the first real bulge in primary numbers hits. In addition, it’s now seeing the first families choosing Leeds as they relocate, stating that having a Jewish high school is one of the factors that influenced their decision.
Brodetsky Jewish Primary School, its main feeder school, continues to grow in size, recognised for its reputation and success by all those around. The Zone, now with LJFS on-site, also adds to the offer available to families and students.
By this time next year LJFS expects to be at 75 per cent of its growing capacity and soon after reach 100 per cent. The school is becoming yet another success of British Jewish education.
Richmond House School
Independent Leeds preparatory school Richmond House School has taken steps to maximise the use of its 10 acres of outdoor space by erecting a yurt in the school grounds. The yurt will be used as an outdoor classroom by all year groups.
This is a tremendous addition to the school which was proud to achieve the top grade of ‘excellent’ in all ISI categories in its most recent inspection and consistently enjoys 100 per cent 11+ exam success.
In addition, the school provides breakfast and after-school clubs from 7.30am until 6pm and a holiday club throughout the summer, Easter and half term holidays.
The next nursery and reception open morning is on Tuesday 31st March from 9am to 11.30am.