Last year we had the pleasure of working with Kedleston Group to develop their new website. This was a really interesting and exciting project for the team as it presented technical and design challenges that we don’t often encounter on web projects.
One of the things that it did highlight was the vast amount of statutory information that must be on school websites. This information can be accessed on the Gov UK website and it led us to wonder about how a school website can impact on school inspections.
We reached out to an expert on LinkedIn, Maggie Parker. Maggie has an impressive list of credentials that includes being contracted with the DfE project ‘Pathways to Success’ as a link advisor, The Educational Leadership Consultancy Ltd as an Educational Leadership Consultant, and with Ofsted as an Inspector of Schools.
Maggie let us know that a big part of the inspection process involves researching the school in advance, and this includes reviewing their school website and how this acts as a school’s shop window ahead of a visit. When looking at the website inspectors are first looking to make sure that schools have included all the statutory information that is required of them, and it is important that schools stay up to date with what this information is.
Maggie emphasised that some of the information that should be included, like Safeguarding Policies, should be given a very high profile on a school website. This needs to be easily accessed by parents and carers who want to raise a safeguarding issue and having this in an area of your site that is difficult to find can present a challenge for parents. Along with Safeguarding Policies, schools should aim to make sure all their policies are up to date and accessible on their site. Sometimes inspectors give leaders time to make small amendments to policies, but out of date documents can raise red flags with inspectors and maintaining these is one less thing to worry about.
Other policies that attract attention from Inspectors is how a school spends the Government allocated Pupil premium, PE and Sport Premium and Year 7 Catchup Premium. It is very important that schools meet the government criteria for what they must publish on their website, this includes detailing things like how much funding has been received for the academic year, how you measure the effect of the premium and the date of the next review, but what Maggie notes is that most schools meet this requirement but fail to mention how this funding will impact learning. Adding this depth of information will give parents and inspectors real insight into the commitment of your school to support your pupils learning journey.
Where Maggie said that schools have the opportunity to shine and give a real flavour for their values and ethos is through the curriculum information that they share online. The new Ofsted draft framework, that was released on the 16th of January (note. this is open to consultation until the 5th of April), places a lot of emphasis on transitions, be that from early years to primary, primary to secondary and secondary to higher education. Schools can show how this is being incorporated into their curriculum and how their pupils are supported throughout their educational journey. One great example of how schools can show that they are preparing their students for life after school is with support for their students with things like CV writing and interview skills. This fits very nicely with the Government guidelines that state you should include Careers information on your website.
As well as picking Maggie’s brain about school websites, we had been very interested to know the view of inspectors on schools using social media. From our own experience, we have met with lots of teachers that have been anxious about their school’s social media presence. The recurring feedback has been that they are wary of these platforms being used to share negative views. Whilst social media can provide a forum for these interactions, to not use this deprives schools of all the benefits of social media. Maggie let us know that schools who maintain social media profiles and use this as the outward facing presence for their school are viewed very positively. Social media gives users insight into school life, it’s a great place to share the successes and achievements of your pupils, and to connect with pupils, parents and experts in the education sector. If you are struggling with how best to use social media for your school, the Education Executive released a great article on 5 unique ways that schools can use social media that can help you to get started.
Whilst Social Media is a great way to invite feedback from parents, finding a way to integrate feedback into your website is something that is viewed very favourably. During the inspection process, the views of parents and carers are considered and schools and there are lots of ways you can demonstrate as a school that you are receptive to parents’ input. One great way is by adding a link to Parent View. Parent View is a website where parents and carers can share their views on their child’s school and this feedback is sent directly to Ofsted. Parents can feedback on everything from the quality of teaching to how schools address issues like bullying.
Most schools will agree that the inspection process can be daunting, particularly if your school is dealing with issues like poor attendance, attainment or disruptive behaviour. Whilst it can be really tempting to try and not draw attention to this, Maggie let us know that schools who recognise their issues and instead highlight a key focus for improvement in this area can help turn a negative situation into a positive demonstration of how the staff and pupils are working towards a common goal.
We hope that you have found this insight into the inspection process as interesting as we have. Below we have put a list of what we think are some very useful and effective action points to consider when you are reviewing your school website.
- Make sure you have checked the Gov UK website for up to date guidelines on what your website should include, or download our guides for Maintained Schools and Academies, Free Schools and Colleges.
- Keep policies up to date, and make sure your Safeguarding Policy can be easily accessed.
- Be transparent with how your school spends your Pupil Premium, Sports Premium and Year 7 Literacy and Numeracy Catch Up Premium and how this Government funding impacts your students learning.
- Give inspectors a flavour for your school’s values and ethos by showing how this influences your curriculum.
- Demonstrate how you support pupil transitions by including this in your curriculum outline.
- Don’t be afraid of Social Media and having an outward facing presence for your school.
- Invite feedback from parents and pupils and consider adding a link to Parent View.
- Prominently display the key focus of your school and the common goals of staff and pupils.