Ofsted and parents - guidance

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"The effectiveness of the school’s engagement with parents and carers’ is one of the eight judgments under ‘Leadership and management" (Ofsted).

What does this mean for schools and what evidence will inspectors be looking for? Read on to find out more…

According to ‘The Evaluation Schedule for Schools’ July 2009, Inspectors should evaluate:

  • the extent to which the school takes account of parents’ and carers’ views and how well they are involved in contributing to decision- making about whole-school matters
  • the extent to which the school enables parents and carers to support, and make decisions about, their own children’s learning, well-being and development
  • the quality of the school’s communication with parents and carers.

The guidance inspectors are asked to take account of includes:

  • the effectiveness with which the school communicates with all parents and carers with parental responsibility, including those who may be reluctant or unsure about approaching the school, such as mothers and fathers not living with their children, those accessing additional services and those whose children have special educational needs and/or disabilities
  • the views expressed by parents and carers through the Ofsted survey carried out at the point of inspection and any survey information provided by the school
  • the frequency and quality of the school’s communications with parents and carers regarding the achievement, well-being and development of their children, including, for example: reporting arrangements; parent/teacher consultation arrangements; clarity of lines of communication; response rates and complaints procedures
  • the frequency and quality of the school’s communications with parents and carers regarding important school developments, including the ways the school has used the views of stakeholders to influence the school’s priorities
  • the mechanisms for helping parents to support their children’s learning, for example through: information provided, activities for parents and carers and support for specific groups and individuals.

In order to help self-evaluate prior to inspection schools might ask themselves:

  • Have we effective systems in place to make sure that all parents, including those not living with their children, receive school communications?
  • How do we communicate with hard-to-reach parents?
  • How do we collect the views of parents on methods of communication?
  • Have we amended methods of communication in the light of what parents have told us?
  • How effectively and frequently do we communicate the progress of pupils to parents?
  • Are parents clear about what the procedures are for lodging a complaint?
  • Does the school keep parents informed and consult about actions for school improvement?
  • Do we enable parents to support their childrens’ learning?
  • How do we involve the parents of pupils with special needs in supporting and developing their learning?
  • How effectively do we communicate to parents of pupils with special needs? 

When completing the SEF schools no longer have prompts to help them. Instead it is expected that schools use the grade descriptors as a guide:

Outstanding (1)
The school has a highly positive relationship with all groups of parents and carers, particularly those groups of parents and carers who might traditionally find working with the school difficult. Parents and carers are heavily involved in decision-making on key matters through well-established procedures. Parents and carers are exceptionally well informed about all aspects of their own childrens achievement, well-being and development. The school provides tailored guidance and information about precise ways parents and carers can support their childrens learning across a wide range of subjects. All groups of parents and carers are able to communicate with the school through a wide range of media. Consistent and productive partnerships ensure that parents and carers are strongly engaged with their childrens learning and the schools work. The schools systems for keeping parents informed about aspects of its work ensure that parents and carers have coordinated, up-to-date, accurate and timely information.
Good (2)
The school has a highly positive relationship with most groups of parents and carers. The school regularly asks parents and carers for their views and ensures that these are used to inform important decisions about whole- school matters. Parents and carers are kept well informed about their childrens achievement, well-being and development. The school helps parents and carers to support their childrens learning in different ways. The effective liaison with parents and carers contributes to improvements in pupils’ achievement, well-being and development. There are clear and accessible channels for parents and carers to communicate with the school which the school actively encourages parents to pursue. The schools systems for keeping parents informed about aspects of its work run smoothly.
Satisfactory (3)
The school has a generally positive relationship with parents and carers. The school regularly seeks and takes account of the views of different groups of parents about important issues. There is a regular exchange of information with parents and carers, providing them with adequate information on how well their children are achieving, their well-being and development. There are some general strategies to help parents and carers support their childs learning. There are clear and accessible channels for parents and carers to communicate with the school. The school generally keeps parents up-to- date about the main events in its calendar.
Inadequate (4)
Parents and carers, or particular groups of parents and carers, are not sufficiently involved in supporting and making decisions about their childrens well-being.
  • The school does not take sufficient account of parents and carers views, or the views of particular groups of parents and carers, so that they have too little say in decisions about whole-school matters.
  • Communication between the school and parents and carers, or particular groups of parents and carers, is poor.

Different strands can be tracked within these grade descriptors. Identifying these can help schools decide on their grading as well as helping them to determine what actions are necessary to move to the next level.

Strand 1: relationship with parents

Outstanding (1)
The school has a highly positive relationship with all groups of parents and carers, particularly those groups of parents and carers who might traditionally find working with the school difficult. 
Good (2)
The school has a highly positive relationship with most groups of parents and carers. 
Satisfactory (3)
The school has a generally positive relationship with parents and carers. 
Inadequate (4)
Communication between the school and parents and carers, or particular groups of parents and carers, is poor.

Strand 2: seeking the views of parents

Outstanding (1)
  Parents and carers are heavily involved in decision-making on key matters through well-established procedures. 
Good (2)
 The school regularly asks parents and carers for their views and ensures that these are used to inform important decisions about whole- school matters. 
Satisfactory (3)
 The school regularly seeks and takes account of the views of different groups of parents about important issues. 
Inadequate (4)
 The school does not take sufficient account of parents and carers views, or the views of particular groups of parents and carers, so that they have too little say in decisions about whole-school matters.
 

Strand 3: keeping parents informed of pupil progress

Outstanding (1)
 Parents and carers are exceptionally well informed about all aspects of their own childrens achievement, well-being and development. 
Good (2)
 Parents and carers are kept well informed about their childrens achievement, well-being and development. 
Satisfactory (3)
 There is a regular exchange of information with parents and carers, providing them with adequate information on how well their children are achieving, their well-being and development. 
Inadequate (4)
Parents and carers, or particular groups of parents and carers, are not sufficiently involved in supporting and making decisions about their childrens well-being.

Strand 4: informing parents how to help their pupils

Outstanding (1)
 The school provides tailored guidance and information about precise ways parents and carers can support their childrens learning across a wide range of subjects. 
Good (2)
 The school helps parents and carers to support their childrens learning in different ways. 
Satisfactory (3)
 There are some general strategies to help parents and carers support their childs learning. 
Inadequate (4)
Parents and carers, or particular groups of parents and carers, are not sufficiently involved in supporting and making decisions about their childrens well-being.
 

Strand 5: lines of communication

Outstanding (1)
 All groups of parents and carers are able to communicate with the school through a wide range of media. The schools systems for keeping parents informed about aspects of its work ensure that parents and carers have coordinated, up-to-date, accurate and timely information.
Good (2)
 There are clear and accessible channels for parents and carers to communicate with the school which the school actively encourages parents to pursue. The schools systems for keeping parents informed about aspects of its work run smoothly.
Satisfactory (3)
 There are clear and accessible channels for parents and carers to communicate with the school. The school generally keeps parents up-to- date about the main events in its calendar.
Inadequate (4)
Communication between the school and parents and carers, or particular groups of parents and carers, is poor.

 

What might this judgement look like on your SEF? Below are some suggestions for statements you might want to include:

The school prides itself on the relationships it has developed with parents, including hard-to-reach parents. This includes providing a number of extended services for parents in partnership with cluster schools. For example, there are now 15 parents/ carers attending the behaviour management group run by the local partnership service. Of these parents 10 are now working on a regular basis with the school’s own learning mentor to build strategies to improve behaviour both at home and within school. This has led to a 50% reduction in fixed-term exclusions (see behaviour file A).

The weekly coffee morning is well-attended by a core group of 20 parents. This session is always staffed by at least one member of the school and a   governor.

At least 5 of the places reserved at lunchtime for family members are filled on a daily basis and parents are invited in regularly to take part in school events including sports day, assemblies, celebration events and family learning opportunities.

Parents’ views are formally surveyed every year and the results summarized and fed back. These directly inform school improvement plans (see survey summary 2009). A parents’ forum meets half-termly to discuss current issues and act as a consultative group for new initiatives e.g. changes to school uniform and PSHE policy (see meeting minutes).

In addition to the usual open evenings parents are informed half-termly through interim reports of pupil progress, targets and what pupils need to do to improve. Curriculum workshops are held termly to explain the school’s approaches to literacy, numeracy and science and special consultations have taken place on the disability equality scheme and gender equality scheme. Currently consultation is taking place on the PSHE curriculum.

80% of parents currently have access to the school’s website which provides information about school policy and practice and up-to-date guidance on current topics and activities within the school.

Regular newsletters and bulletins provide all parents (including those not living with their children) of the daily life of the school and school improvement initiatives. 98% of parents surveyed (2009) say that they feel welcome in the school and 97% say that they feel well-informed and know who to ask if they have a concern.

The school is currently reviewing the times when it hold curriculum workshops as these have not been well attended by all groups of parents (analysis of attendance data File B). 

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