Getting your School website OFSTED ready

Portrait of a teacher

Portrait of a teacher

Always keeping schools on their toes, OFSTED and the DfE provided new guidelines last year for the way in which schools are required to make key pieces of information available to parents and students. I'm sure you're aware of the responsibility on schools to provide key information such as Pupil Premium, Curriculum details and Key Stage Results prominently on your school website. You may or may not be aware that these requirements have fast become the first port of call for the inspectorate when carrying out any inspections.

We met this week with a couple of schools and both have said that, on recent inspections, the first thing the inspector said was a comment on their school website. "Excellent, I know who you are Mrs Headteacher because your photo is clearly displayed on your website". "Do you realise that there is no picture anywhere on your web site which clearly shows your school building? It made you a little difficult to find".

It's not totally out of the blue, things have been heading this way for a while, but it has become apparent that your school website has a big impact on OFSTED.

It makes sense; when we're shopping online we make instant, snap judgements on every web site we visit. We may believe that when we're shopping online we hold all the cards; we look at lots of different shops and make sure we find the best price with the best discount or the most cashback and with the best delivery options and the most outstanding reviews.

We can relax; we've done the work so nothing can go wrong. It doesn't always work like that does it?

What if I told you that when you're online, whether shopping or browsing, everything you do is monitored to influence your browsing and shopping habits. We think we're making informed decisions when we eventually make a purchase but advertisers understand the psychology of shopping online and employ a huge range of sophisticated techniques to influence us at every turn.

I promise you, you're not as savvy an online shopper as you may think you are.

What's that got to do with OFSTED visiting your school?! Well, why can't you take some of the simple techniques that the sophisticated online marketers employ to influence not only your web site users; parents, students, prospective students and, of course ... OFSTED? There's no reason at all.

OFSTED inspectors are looking for specific things when they come to your web site but they're often open to influence. The day before they come into your school they will be looking through the relevant paperwork on your school and of course, your school website.

They're looking to make sure that you cover all the bases; is the mandatory information readily available (Pupil Premium, Curriculum, Policies etc)? Can they see photos of members of staff? Will they be able to find your school easily? That's the very basic requirements but you can make a huge impression and get half way to where you need to be by presenting yourself in the right way online. This is where you can influence the inspector.

There's nothing groundbreaking here - but make sure you're doing it!

  • Clearly display 'lifestyle' images on the front of your web site that give your users and INSTANT impression of what your school is about
  • Have news and events information on the front page of your web site which is regularly updated so the inspector can see what you're up to quickly and easily
  • Get your Headteacher to write an introduction to the school - something informal which is a warm and friendly welcome, which makes very clear the ethos and aims of the school in a few short paragraphs - and include a photo! (make sure he or she smiles!)
  • Have clearly displayed photos of all key staff and their roles
  • Make sure your contact details and location map are really easy to find
  • Get your content tidied up - run an audit of your site and make sure that all content is to the point, well written and well structured
This may sound like a mammoth task but getting your web site up to date, well structured and presented will go a long way to making the very best first impression. If you're lagging behind on this, get on top of your school website now because this is only going to become a bigger requirement.
If you have this sorted, any inspector will get a feel for your school and will be looking forward to coming to spend some time with you. Make the very first impression one that counts.
Everything you need to know about the mandatory information for your web site can be found on the DfE website.

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