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How do Skills Builder education programmes help you prepare for Ofsted?

Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. They inspect and regulate thousands of organisations and individuals providing education, training and care in England – from childminders to training providers, schools to local authorities. The education inspection framework and accompanying handbook set out Ofsted's inspection principles and the main judgements that inspectors make. Inspectors make graded judgements on the following areas:

  • quality of education
  • behaviour and attitudes
  • personal development
  • leadership and management

Getting ‘the call’ can be daunting. On the one hand, it’s a brilliant opportunity to showcase the impact your staff are having with learners every day. On the other, there’s inevitable pressure that comes along with any judgement about your provision. 

An inspirational cohort of schools and colleges

We’re incredibly proud of this year’s cohort of schools and colleges and the commitment they are making to building essential skills. Recent research has shown the correlation between essential skills and academic outcomes, earning potential and broader life outcomes. In addition, there’s consensus amongst teachers that equipping learners with these highly transferable skills unlocks learning in the classroom. The most effective interventions to build essential skills are regular, long term, explicit and progressive. This is how schools and colleges work with us on structured programmes, including the Accelerator

Hearing from a Head Teacher

In a recent webinar, our Senior Education Associate, Sophie Deaville, and Education Associate, Jessica Ebrahimi-Sabet, were joined by Jo Challender, Head Teacher at Mill Lodge Primary School, a one-form entry primary in Solihull. Mill Lodge currently hold a Skills Builder Bronze Award and are on the Accelerator+ programme in 2022-23. We’re hugely grateful to Jo for sharing her experience of preparing for her next inspection, and where her work with Skills Builder fits in.

“We’re working very hard towards Silver.. we know exactly what we want to do, we have a strategy, we have a plan in place and we know why we want to do it. So, I think we’re feeling quite confident about Skills Builder being a positive [in our next inspection], the evidence is there and its impact.” 

Jo Challender, Head Teacher at Mill Lodge Primary School

Watch the recorded webinar

You can watch the recorded webinar here. This is what we covered (with time stamps) below: 

  • Quality of education (2:00 mins)
  • Behaviour and attitudes (7:06 mins)
  • Personal development (10:40 mins)
  • Leadership and management (15:36 mins)
  • Interview with Jo, Head Teacher at Mill Lodge Primary School (19:19 mins)

Can’t watch now? Here’s a summary of what we talked about

Quality of education (2:00 mins)

“The school’s curriculum is coherently planned and sequenced towards cumulatively sufficient knowledge and skills for future learning and employment.” 

Ofsted Inspection Handbook, 2022

In the webinar, we share how the Universal Framework breaks down essential skills into steps: a sequential series of capabilities that build up from being an absolute beginner to mastery in each skill. The short lessons (which are freely accessible on the Skills Builder Hub), apply Rosenshine’s principles of instruction to support progressive teaching. There are structured opportunities to check understanding, apply skill steps and recall previous learning.

Behaviour and attitudes (7:06 mins)

“The behaviour and attitudes judgement considers how leaders and staff create a safe, calm, orderly and positive environment in the school and the impact this has on the behaviour and attitudes of pupils”. 

Ofsted Inspection Handbook, 2022

In the webinar, we explore examples of how schools and colleges embed the essential skills into policies, e.g. behaviour, rewards, attendance. Many do this as part of embedding Principle 1: Keep It Simple, while working towards the Silver Award.

Personal development (10:40 mins)

“The curriculum provided by schools should extend beyond the academic, technical or vocational. Schools support pupils to develop in many diverse aspects of life”. 

“Schools are crucial in preparing pupils for their adult lives, teaching them to understand how to engage with society and providing them with plentiful opportunities to do so”.

Ofsted Inspection Handbook, 2022

In the webinar, we share how off-timetable days and extended projects can provide deliberate opportunities to practise and apply essential skills. All these resources focus learners on a ‘big question’ that extends beyond the curriculum.

Leadership and management (15:36 mins)

“Leaders have a clear and ambitious vision for providing high-quality education to all pupils”. 

“Leaders engage effectively with pupils and others in their community, including, when relevant, parents, employers and local services.”

Ofsted Inspection Handbook, 2022

In the webinar, we outline the vision setting process that all Skills Leaders undertake during the first Skills Leader Training Day on the Accelerator programme. Skills Leaders continue to work closely with an Education Associate to develop and articulate this vision, while simultaneously involving the wider community in focused and purposeful ways. 

Interview with Jo, Head Teacher at Mill Lodge Primary School (19:19 mins)

Here’s a snippet from the interview with Jo. 



You used some of your flexible support time to prepare for Ofsted, can you tell us what you got out of it?


I think there are two parts to that meeting and they’re both equally as important.

The first one was where we pulled out each of the criteria from the four areas of Ofsted, a bit like Sophie has done just now, and then said how does Skills Builder support that criteria. Jessica, my Education Associate, came with all the information from the impact reports and the research. That will be really important, so I can say the reason we do Skills Builder is because of ‘this evidence’. 

The second part is what it does for your school. We’ve made a very conscious decision that every child within the school from nursery to year 6, teachers and mealtime supervisors, are involved. It’s a very conscious decision based on the vision we have for Skills Builder in our school. As a leader, you need to be able to articulate that vision quite clearly. 

For us as a school, I will talk to Ofsted about our knowledge rich curriculum. If I am teaching year 6 science and I need them to do an investigation, I am not going to get very far with them learning the science subject knowledge if they can’t work effectively as a team. 

So I know why I want Skills Builder to be integral to the curriculum in our school and that’s why it sits on our principles for curriculum design document, our intent document and our cultural capital document. 


If you’re currently working with us and want to do more in this area, please contact your Education Associate. 

If you’re not currently working with us and would like to, applications for the 2023-24 Accelerator open at the end of February 2023, you can find out more and apply online here.