SIAMS Update September 2019

SIAMS Inspections

As we enter the second year of the new SIAMS schedule, we are sharing some key points to consider going forward.

The key question permeates all aspects of the inspection process: 

How effective is the school’s distinctive Christian vision, established and promoted by leadership at all levels, in enabling pupils and adults to flourish?

This leads to several questions for schools to consider as part of the improvement/SIAMS inspection process, for example:

  • What is our Christian vision? How and when was it developed/refreshed? Is it still ‘fit for purpose’?
  • How is it distinctively Christian? What is the theological and biblical basis for our vision? How is this shared across the school community? How does it drive and reflect our service to our community? 

The vision is the focus for the inspection with the associated values being one of the ways in which the vision is expressed.  

Self-evaluation

  • Is central to school improvement and to SIAMS as a part of the school improvement cycle. 
  • There is a Church of England self-evaluation document which can be downloaded from the Chelmsford Diocesan website. There is a second version - to check, look at the end of the collective worship strand. If there is a box asking for a judgement (and another after the RE strand) then you have the latest version. 
  • The document is not statutory. You can use whatever way of self-evaluation that best suits your school. However, it is important that you demonstrate to the inspector your judgement against the schedule about whether you are a good church school. Also, if you judge that your school has excellent, exemplary, innovative practice in most or some of the stands you need to be able to demonstrate that. 
  • Don’t make your SEF too long – focus on the key elements that demonstrate your school’s distinctive Christian vision in action (impact). An extra evidence folder available on the day can extend your self-evaluation. 

The initial phone call with the headteacher (or another senior leader if the headteacher is not available): 

  • The inspector will ask questions to help him/her with his/her preparation for the inspection and will go through arrangements for when documents are to be sent and for the inspection day. 
  • If you think there are documents that the inspector hasn’t asked for as part of the pre-inspection evidence be proactive and offer them. 

The inspection day

  • The structure of the day may well vary depending on the lines of enquiry identified by the inspector. 
  • Learning walks rather than longer lesson observations may form part of the evidence base (these are usually shared with a senior member of staff). 
  • Meetings involving several people may be asked for, e.g. SENCO, FLO and link governor to focus on pastoral support; head or deputy and lead for KS1 and lead for KS2 to discuss teaching and learning, etc. 
  • The inspector will wish to speak with your diocesan link adviser by telephone, either on the inspection day or the afternoon/evening before the inspection day. Previous notes of visit, from him/her or indeed from other external advisers, provide useful evidence for the inspector. Have them available on the inspection day.  
  • If your chair of governors (or equivalent) or your incumbent is not available, the inspector may wish to have a telephone conversation either on the inspection day or the afternoon/evening before. 
  • If the school is part of a MAT or Federation, the inspector will need to establish the impact of this. They may well, for example, wish to speak to the MAT CEO or someone on the main board who is closely involved with the school. However, the inspection is of the individual school, not the MAT or Federation.  

Reports

  • The ‘good’ grade is very broad. Nationally, most schools are being judged as good with a smaller proportion being excellent or requires improvement. Very few have been judged in the past year to be inadequate as a church school. 
  • Reports are being written that come to a good grade overall but include elements of excellent practice and impact across a minority of strands. Where this is the case the specific excellent practice is recognised in the body of the report even through there is no excellent judgement overall. 
  • Excellent judgements involve innovative, creative, exemplary practice. It is for the school to make their case for excellence across most strands. 
  • In VC or equivalent schools there are two judgments (vision and collective worship). Religious education (RE) is focused on in the main body of the report but there is no separate judgement. In VA or equivalent schools there are three identified judgements (vision, collective worship and RE). All grades do not have to be the same. For example, there could be a good judgement for the overall key question and an excellent judgement for collective worship (or vice versa) in a VC (or equivalent) school.
  • The front page has information about the school, including its vision statement, key findings and areas for development. The main body of the text is around 1000 words with an extra 150 words in VA (or equivalent) schools for a separate RE judgement. 

SIAMS - Pending changes to the Self Evaluation process and to the Pre-Inspection Plan

Following the first year of inspections under the current SIAMS schedule, and in line with developments with OFSTED, the Church of England Education office will be providing a range of ways in which schools can self-evaluate their distinctiveness and effectiveness as a Church of England school, drawing on the school’s vision. These are due to be sent to the SIAMS managers in Dioceses around the end of September and I will pass them on to your link advisers as soon as I have them.  

Schools, as part of their ongoing improvement programme, will need to have a detailed self-evaluation/improvement plan that is well focused to guide development. When a school is due for inspection the advice will be to send to the inspector a summary SEF of no more than two sides of A4. The more detailed self-evaluation/improvement plan can also be sent to the inspector to give them a rounded picture of your school before the inspection day and to guide them in their pre-inspection planning. They will also look at data, your previous SIAMS and Ofsted reports and your website in order to draw up their pre-inspection plan (PIP). The template for the PIP, which the inspector will send to the school the day before the inspection, has changed. It will include a 250 word analysis of the evidence so far plus up to, but not exceeding 6 lines of enquiry to shape the inspection day.

Pamela D Draycott
SIAMS Manager