OFSTED School Websites – What are they saying?

OFSTED School Website

Is ensuring your website is completely up-to-date really that important?  The simple answer is yes.  I completely understand how this can fall down the priority list though since your website doesn’t have a direct impact on standards in your school so can become a little neglected.  But, we cannot escape the fact, school websites have become the go to resource for parents and members of the public to find out information about your school and for OFSTED to begin their inspection.

OFSTED Handbook

The first mention of the school website in OFSTED’s School Inspection Handbook is during the initial conversation section where is says, “93. If any issues arise, the lead inspector may also need further clarification from the school, for example when information is not available on the school’s website” which I’m sure you would agree, would not be the best start to your inspection.

When talking about Section 8 inspections, Dan Lambert, Her Majesty’s Inspector, says that, “The school’s website is a useful source of information as it includes details of the school’s curriculum and policies.” (https://educationinspection.blog.gov.uk/2018/03/14/dan-lambert-her-majestys-inspector-on-a-section-8-inspection/

So you could infer, if the curriculum documents are incomplete, out-of-date or missing, it could give the initial impression that you do not have a strong curriculum in place in school giving you an uphill battle before you’ve even started.  Conversely, if you have clear, detailed, structured curriculum documents in place, your prospective inspector would start with the impression that you have a strong, progressive curriculum in place in school putting you in a much stronger position.

You could also take from this a similar conclusion around policies; if they are missing or out-of-date, would it suggest that the school follows them?  I certainly wouldn’t want an inspector to have this opinion of a school I led or indeed a parent or member of the public.

Does OFSTED use our school website to evidence their judgements?

It would seem so.  I looked through a range of OFSTED reports from the last two years from a range of schools.  These are some of the comments that I found.

Comments in Good or Outstanding inspection reports:

  • A range of documentation was scrutinised, including school policies, curriculum documents and the school website.
  • The proprietor ensures that the school provides the required information that parents need. For example, a statement on RSHE and the safeguarding policy are available on the school’s website.
  • To evaluate the effectiveness of safeguarding, inspectors reviewed the school’s website and policies and met with safeguarding leaders.
  • The school sends a clear message on the homepage of the school’s website about the importance of safeguarding.

Comments in RI and Inadequate inspection reports:

  • The website is mostly out of date.
  • However, the school’s website is difficult to navigate, and it is not easy to find relevant information.
  • We explored the school’s website to evaluate the quality of information provided to parents.

These comments demonstrate that OFSTED does use the information from your school website as evidence to inform their judgements.  It is also worth saying that in the “Information about this inspection” section of the report, it more often than not referenced scrutinising the school website as part of the inspection process.

What can you do?

It is important to audit your website to ensure that all statutory requirements are met – do also make sure you use the correct criteria since this differs depending on the type of school you have.

You can see the latest statutory requirements using the following links:

Who should audit your site?

I think it is important to have someone who isn’t involved in updating the site perform the audit.  Why?  The way they navigate the site will perhaps be different so it is useful to see if they can find everything easily and if it is in a logical place.  That said, it needs to be someone with an appropriate level of knowledge, e.g. PP Strategy template, policy review frequency etc.

I say this because I have audited sites that have an up-to-date PP Strategy (✓) but they haven’t used the statutory template (x) which makes the difference between being compliant or not.  This suggests to me they may have had a governor, or volunteer, audit the website who would have said they had the documents in place and not necessarily realised it was in the wrong format. 

Our Audit Service – The Benefits

  • Reliable – all school website audits are conducted by experienced school leaders with a full understanding of the statutory requirements
  • Impartial – receive impartial evidence to present to SLT, Governors, School Improvement Partners, LA Representatives and OFSTED etc
  • Save time – ensuring your website meets statutory requirements is a must, there’s no avoiding this fact but, by using our school website audit service, you can free up your value time to focus on other things
  • Insightful – having a “stranger’s” perspective on your website is extremely useful to ensure information is easily found and accessible by someone unfamiliar, just like a parent, member of the public or potential OFSTED Inspector would be. 

I completed my BEd Primary degree specialising in ICT at the University of Plymouth. I have now worked in education for last 20 years in a range of roles teaching across the primary spectrum, including History Lead, Maths Lead, Computing Lead, Assessment Lead, EPICT Ambassador, CEOP Ambassador, LA Writing Moderator, Mathematics Mastery School Development Lead, Deputy Head Teacher and my most recent being Head Teacher.

After leading a school through the COVID pandemic, I thought it was time for a little break so left in 2021 to start Education Safeguarding and Pupil Magazines, which are now my full time pursuits.

I hope that they will be something of benefit to schools, pupils and school leaders.