By writing this I am simply avoiding doing my preparation for the second of three days of admissions appeals. An occurrence that is quite common throughout the year but the key year 6 into 7 ones are always the most stressful. I have had the disappointment of not getting the first choice as a parent so I do understand how it feels; I think that probably makes the whole process even more uncomfortable.
Like lots of schools we ‘commission’ our local authority to run the process and it is this involvement that brings in to sharp focus the important role Essex LA still has in Passmores’ life despite being an academy. It also makes me think about how we desperately need their involvement in other aspects of the education landscape. Don’t get me wrong I, like many others, have had my frustrations with what felt like wasted money providing things that I didn’t need but had no option but to pay for. However, I am convinced that there are some really important parts of our education system that a LA are the best to support.
There will probably not be a Headteacher or governing body anywhere that does not believe that safeguarding the young people is their first priority. However we have this system that ties safeguarding checks to Ofsted inspections (I know there are exceptions but generally…) which may be over a decade apart.
This is simply not good enough.
Just because a school has gained an Outstanding judgement from Ofsted does not mean that safeguarding practices remain sound just because academic performance remains high. If a school has to publish when it last had a formal, independent check on safeguarding I wonder how many parents would be put off?
As a parent I’d be worried if my local school had not been inspected for several years that complacency may have slipped in around safeguarding. Obviously, I don’t think it would be a common occurrence but I’d like the reassurance nevertheless.
The oversight of safeguarding currently is focused on what you’ve done not how you ensure you stay up to date and sharply focused on what is important.
It is time for a rethink. If we take safeguarding seriously it needs to be more than just an additional task that an already stretched team of inspectors has to tick off. We could save the time for the inspection team but also ensure a robust and developmental process that keeps schools both compliant and forward thinking.
I am not clever enough to work this out but if we added together all of the time potentially saved during an Ofsted inspection, and costed it, that saving could be used to set up a much more regular and proactive system overseen by the LA. If it needed extra funding on top of that surely it is that important.
Whilst safeguarding remains something that feels like a pass or fail in the inspection process we will never be doing it justice. Ongoing dialogues between knowledgeable colleagues about the developing challenges we all face are vital. If the LA was given a very specific role to facilitate, challenge and support ALL schools in safeguarding our young people it could provide a conduit for all services, that work with young people, to share vital information and resources.
The current system of checks feels like the bare minimum we should be doing and when it comes to keeping our children safe the minimum is not good enough.
Vic Goddard is a founding member of Heads’ Roundtable, co-principal of Passmores Academy and CEO of Passmores Cooperative Learning Community.