Teacher wellbeing and Ofsted inspections
Most educators and school leaders would never put the notions of Ofsted and wellbeing together in the same sentence. In fact, sadly, it is quite the opposite.
Since the tragic death of headteacher Ruth Perry, who her family believe took her own life as a direct result of the process and outcomes of an inspection, hundreds of headteachers and senior leaders have spoken out about the detrimental effects of a visit from the Office for Standards in Education.
Anyone involved in education knows the huge pressure such inspections place on settings and there are a growing number of calls and petitions for an urgent review of Ofsted’s procedures and its one-word judgements which many feel are not fit for purpose.
What has been the government response?
Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan, defended the judgements, claiming that they are “clear” and “easy to understand”, but did say that His Majesty’s Chief Inspector would look into whether the way the regulatory body works with schools can be improved.
As result of all this, Ofsted has recently proposed some changes to the way they work. They have said they will:
● Hold briefings for head teachers whose schools have not been inspected for a long time.
● Make the complaints procedure more responsive, addressing issues during the inspection, rather than later.
● Look into returning more quickly to schools with work to do on safeguarding, but are otherwise performing well, so that judgements can more promptly reflect improvements.
However, the one-word judgements are set to remain the same
So, with all the pressures, political and otherwise, placed on schools, the question we are asking is how can you best protect your wellbeing when going through the inspection process?
Here are a few collected thoughts.
1. It’s not about you!
The inspection is focused on the school. Keep reminding yourself that they are not coming to judge you specifically.
2. Don’t feel lessons must be ‘all singing and dancing’
Have confidence in your day-to-day practice. You do not have to change what you usually do; you ARE good enough!
3. Positive reinforcement
Write a list of good things you have achieved. Writing them down will help with feelings of positivity and will and secure them in your memory.
4. Calm yourself
For an immediate sense of calm, www.wellbeingandcoping.net have put together a list of 30 second activities. Here are 4 of them.
• 3 deep breaths - Breathe in (count to 3) breathe out (count to five) and repeat.
• Squeeze and reassure - Put one hand into the other, squeeze gently and keep telling yourself that you will ‘get through’ this.
• Lower your shoulders or ‘roll’ them a few times - we often hold tension in our shoulders and neck.
• Repeat a personal ‘mantra’ - Choose something reassuring and say it silently or out loud, for example:
These simple techniques will help to ‘ground you’ in stressful moments.
5. Share concerns and talk
The people best placed to understand exactly how you feel are your colleagues who are going through the same thing, so make sure you tell them how you are feeling.
6. Meet the inspector/s as soon as you can.
Remind yourselves they are just people. Greet them with a smile. Once you have seen them in person, it might help put things into perspective. Be prepared with questions of your own.
7. Read all about it
If you are new to teaching or have never been through an Ofsted inspection, ‘How to Survive an Ofsted Inspection’ by Sarah Findlater might be a useful read. It includes a section on reducing (or hiding!) stress.
8. Chocolate and rescue remedy
More than one teacher heartily recommended these!
Do not suffer in silence if you are feeling low.
Education Support have a 24-hour Helpline - 08000 562 561
It is free and confidential and can they put you in touch with people who are qualified to help, including trained counsellors if necessary.