The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Sue Birchall

Ofsted is coming: how SBMs can prepare

No truer is the saying 'Proper preparation prevents poor performance' than when an inspector calls. Here are the steps school business managers can take to stay ahead.

For many school leaders, the autumn term can be the winter of their discontent. Image source: HBO

At the beginning of term, nothing is more likely to strike fear into the hearts of even the most seasoned school staff than the announcement of an impending Ofsted inspection.

Business management and support staff are less likely to feel the brunt of this than their teaching colleagues, but that’s no excuse for complacency!

Some of the simplest pre-checks will mean that your school team will be able to concentrate on the business of teaching and learning and not worry about other operational areas.

Pre-inspection priorities

Like any business, the performance of a school relies on all cogs turning together. School business managers are uniquely placed to stay on top of the school’s day-to-day operations and ensure statutory obligations are met. 

The SBM can help a school prepare for inspection by:

  • reviewing and updating the single central record
  • maintaining the correct records for safer recruitment, right to work, employer access checks and qualification evidence
  • reviewing and updating the school’s statutory policies
  • explaining the costings of the school improvement plan (SIP) and the use of pupil premium money
  • making sure all health and safety procedures comply with current legislation
  • considering the impact they have on safeguarding in school, especially contractor and visitor management
  • managing staff files – are they up to date with the latest CPD records?
  • publishing all the necessary information on the school’s website and making sure it’s easy to find
  • maintaining accurate, accessible and up-to-date governance records.

You may not have direct responsibility for all of these, but as the leading member of support staff, you should assure your headteacher that these areas are watertight!

A warm reception

Another pre-inspection priority is to make sure that staff working in reception are fluent in greeting and registering visitors to your school.

Inspectors should have: 

  • all the school’s key documents to hand
  • a comfortable base from which to operate (not the storage cupboard!)
  • access to amenities
  • a member of staff available to answer any questions.

Will the inspectors have a school lunch? Are refreshments available? What will they need in terms of materials? Some time spent organising this in advance will make the inspection days more manageable.

On arrival, the reception team need to ensure that they ask to see inspectors' identification if it is not immediately presented. Safety first!

In summary

  • Be prepared.
  • Be consistent.
  • Be available.
  • Be there for your colleagues.

And as someone who works in two schools, both open to an imminent visit, I will be taking my own advice and making sure my house is in order.

Maximise your funding

Are you in a position to demonstrate to key stakeholders the effective use of your school's pupil premium?

Our two-day pupil premium review will give you a comprehensive report, based on a review of your school's data and a visit from one of our expert consultants.

With suggestions for improvement in line with the DfE's recommended model, this is the perfect way to make every penny count.

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More from Optimus

School business management or leadership – does it matter?

21 steps to achieving an outstanding early years Ofsted judgement

How to write a school policy: 9 top tips

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