My school is inadequate. Or at least, when it had its last full inspection it was.
I took up headship at Charter in September 2017. A lot of lies were told about Charter from the very start. A lot of lies continue to be told about Charter and about me personally.
By February 2018, around five and a half months in to my headship, we got a call around 8.10am one morning. It was Ofsted.
Following a variety of totally unsubstantiated accusations, over a number of months, the inspectors were on the doorstep, ready to do a no notice safeguarding inspection.
They came. They asked lots of questions, often based upon the countless malicious accusations that had been made against us. They ploughed through paperwork. They talked to pupils a lot. They talked to staff a lot. They visited lessons a lot.
At one point, in our KIT (keeping in touch) meeting, an inspector said, ‘We’d like to evaluate your behaviour systems. It’s very difficult. We’ve been here two and a half hours. We haven’t seen any misbehaviour.’ That was nice. They were seeing typical Charter.
The inspectors seemed happy. Talking to our Chair of Governors, an inspector who knew the predecessor school well, described Charter as a ‘miraculous turnaround’. Again, that was nice.
Around midday another set of allegations was made against us. Again, the inspectors asked questions, sought evidence and were satisfied with our evidence. Another set of unfounded malicious allegations were put to bed.
The no notice inspection didn’t convert to a two day inspection.
As the inspectors left, the inspector who knew the school of old urged us, ‘Don’t let anybody stop you. I don’t think anybody could. But don’t let them.’ That was nice.
The day went quickly. Pupils and staff were honest and passionate.
I urged staff to be themselves, to be Charter. Truth is, they really were on point that day. To the casual observer, it felt like a typical day at Charter. But, that day, for me, was very special. Staff, who had been on their knees in July 2017, were ten foot tall by February 2018.
Lesson changeovers are always good at Charter. On that day, the changeovers were like silk.
I was so proud of the staff. They’d been through so much. They were standing side by side. They were excited. They were desperate to talk to the inspectors about how we’d done what we’d done and in such a short time. It was electric.
We’ll have a full inspection this year. In August 2017 our results in maths and English doubled at 4+ and more than doubled at 5+. We went from worst results in the region, amongs the worst in the country, with only 30% of pupils obtaining 4+ in English and maths, to, arguably, one of the country’s most improved set of results, with 58% of pupils gaining 4+ and 30% gaining 5+. The regional average was 66%.
What will this next inspection bring? We’ve just merged with another school. Tiny, but lots of issues, and a small Y8 and Y9 cohort to be based on another site until September 2019. The school we’ve merged with has a very different ethos historically. Merging the two won’t be easy.
We’ve restructured. We have fewer staff than before. We’re still getting over legacy issues associated with the school as it was until July 2017. We’re still reliant upon long term supply in some areas. We’re still subject to regular social media vitriol and lies.
When the inspectors come next time, we’ll be strong. We’ll be ready to challenge them if necessary. I’ll be keen to know if they have achieved what we achieved and in such a short space of time. What makes them qualified to judge us and are they focussing on what really matters?
I hate all the silly badges. ‘Outstanding’, ‘Good’. What do they even mean?
You visit Charter and the behaviour, consistency, calm, focus, warmth, they stand out. Is that ‘Outstanding’?
The smart appearance of pupils, the courtesy, the pin drop silence when teachers talk, the smooth changeovers, the smiles, the humour, they stand out. Is that ‘Outstanding’?
The transformation in gcse results, that stands out too. Is doubling 4+ in maths and English and more than doubling 5+ ‘Outstanding’?
Read the many visitor comments and blogs about Charter, from people who have witnessed, what’s been called, a ‘miraculous turnaround’, with their own eyes. They stand out as well. Is that ‘Outstanding’?
The glowing safeguarding report from Ofsted in February 2018, that was nice. Where we were and where we are. It stands out but is it ‘Outstanding’?
The, arguably, most improved gcse results in the country in August 2018, that was nice. They stand out. But ‘Outstanding’?
The next Ofsted report, that’ll be interesting.
I defy anyone to visit Charter and not be blown away by how strong and mutually supportive a staff we are. I defy anyone to visit Charter and not marvel at the distance we’ve travelled in such a short time.
If you’d like to see Charter with your own eyes, we’d love to welcome you!
And, in the meantime, just remember, our detractors, firing away outrageous, and totally unsubstantiated, accusations, not one of them has been to Charter and seen what we do.
The unanimously positive blogs and tweets? They’re exclusively from people, invariably very experienced teachers, who’ve toured, had unrestricted access and chatted at length with staff and kids.
Visit! We’re growing. We need people to spread the word.