What does Ofsted want to see on your school website?
When The School Information (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2012 came in and school websites became a compulsory item for all schools Ofsted quickly made it clear that a school’s website would form part of their judgements. Schools these days are only too aware of how important a school’s website is both legally and in terms of Ofsted ratings.
The Ofsted handbook and related briefings emphasise how strongly Ofsted use your school website pre-inspection to build a picture of your school, and to determine what they do and don’t need to see when they arrive.
All schools and school website providers read Ofsted news in earnest to gleam an exact checklist of items to tick off on their website that will ensure the best result. Although over the last few years Ofsted have on occasion indicated items that they would consider good practice there is no prescriptive hard and fast rules as to what will tick their boxes in full and any indications are ever changing. For schools, it is more a case of using what they know that Ofsted are looking for in a good or outstanding school and reflecting this though their website. In short, any new item on the agenda or that schools need to focus on should become an area that you cover within your website.
Most recently, key areas that we would encourage you to focus on include:
- Reflecting your new curriculum and particularly SMSC development
- Making clear you ethos, values and aims,
- Governance transparency,
- British Values,
- Safeguarding, including, Extremism and radicalisation,
- SEN Code of practice/ Local Offer,
- Anti-bullying, including homophobia and transgender related bullying,
Often schools spend most of their precious and limited time complying with statutory requirements and the perceived needs of Ofsted, which can take a great deal of time and worry to achieve. Focusing on your school website as means of communicating current practice and of showcasing the best of your school should also be at the forefront of school’s minds. It is also vital that your key regular audience – the parents and pupils – are not neglected within this. This is a balance that is hard to gain when time is limited and teaching and learning the key focus.
Publishing day to day and key information on a school website should be a given for all areas of school life, making your site the place that parents, pupils and the public go to find out answers about you. The best websites are ones that are a planned and embedded part of parental engagement. By using your website to make parents feel a part of school life, you are giving them a quick, accessible and no-pressured way of supporting their children. This in turn gives Ofsted, and anyone else evaluating your school, the best insight into your vision, values, and provision and sets a great first impression of you.
It is also imperative that we do not neglect what makes good practice generally for a website to ensure it’s a credible resource for everyone connected to the school.
So here are some key tips to making your site Ofsted friendly:
1. Have all the statutory information quick and easy to find with most of it in one section together.
2. Have regular news and/or galleries to provide a quick snapshot, window into what life day-to-day is like in your school. Shouting about the activities you provide as a norm will actually be your biggest selling points. Regular news and galleries also provide an on-going and archived record of provision. Photos of in school activities gives your parents in particular insights into their children’s lives with you, which is a vital part of engaging them in their children’s learning, as well as demonstrating what you have to offer.
3. Keep your site up to date. Maintaining a high number of visitors and returning visitors to your website is important. Visitors want an informative and up-to-date site otherwise they will not come back. It’s far easier to maintain and build on your website’s user base than to regain trust in its credibility once it is lost. If you know that maintaining your site is something that there is not much time for at the moment or capacity, then make it simple. Do not try to have too much on it or too many sections that can get quickly out of date.
4. Use a calendar. An up-to-date record of forthcoming events keeps parents informed and an archive of previous events provides yet more excellent evidence of your provision over time for those evaluating your school.
5. Have children’s contributions through blogs, children written sports reports, news items and galleries. Showcase achievements in school and out and give recognition for children’s efforts to show how you as a school value the children’s inputs. It also provides an excellent snapshot of teaching and learning in your school.
6. Text notifications of new items to the site to drive parental traffic towards it and encourage usage. A website is a bit like marking pupils’ work –you can spend hours providing positive and constructive feedback but if you don’t give your pupils time to see it and respond it is of no value. Likewise, publishing updates and information on your website without alerting parents to it lessens the chance it will be seen and potentially the effort is wasted.
7. Use our PYS Website Audit to get the best from your site and ensure parents and pupils visit the site on a regular basis or give us a call to book a consultant to audit your site and provide up-to-date advice.
Following these simple tips and running an audit of your site will go a long way to both impressing the inspectors and encouraging engagement between you and your major stakeholders.