It’s a good question and not something I had ever really thought too much about as a school leader. I tended to either do it myself with a checklist I found on the internet or one of my governors would volunteer and then I could say that there had been an “impartial” audit or that our judgements had been verified. But there are potential problems with both approaches.
Why is it important?
To start off, I should say I do completely 100% understand that keeping a school website up-to-date is a pain. Updating the website was absolutely one of those things that would get pushed around my desk until I absolutely had to do it or I actually had some free time.
That said, it is a statutory requirement. We cannot escape that fact so it has to be done which is the bottom line. I don’t want it to sound like we only have a website because we have to, there are definitely many good reasons for having a website, but it sometimes feel like a burden because it is a lot of work that distracts from things that can have an impact on teaching and learning.
It is the public window to your school. This is the first place many prospective parents will come to get a feel for the school and these first impressions count. An up-to-date website gives parents confidence in the standards at the school. It does not give a good impression if documents are out-of-date or the website refers to children that left the school years before.
I can’t avoid talking about them so my next point is OFSTED. OFSTED will look through your website before picking up the phone to tell you they are coming for a visit so this is an opportunity to show how good your school is and set the right tone.
Who should do it?
A school leader – now that I have spent a lot of time auditing numerous school websites, this would be my first choice. Why? I’ve realised, it simply isn’t just a tick box exercise.
As a Deputy or as a Head Teacher, I used to maintain the school website. I made sure the information was up-to-date and that statutory information was there. I was happy then to let a school governor audit my site , really just to confirm that everything was there. This approach works and, as an ICT specialist, it made sense for me to take responsibility for this. However, I understand this is not the case in many schools and that senior leaders have many other pressing things to concentrate on. So who does it? Maybe someone in the office? Maybe an external company? Maybe your ICT technician? Maybe a lot of people?
How then to they ensure they are meeting statutory requirements? Do they have to go through and check it themselves or could they have a governor do it? Sadly, in most cases, I believe the school leader has to do it and I don’t think it should be someone else. There needs to be a certain level of understanding about wider statutory requirements. Let me explain.
If you were to give the checklist to someone outside of a school leadership role they might look for the Complaints Policy for example, see it is there, dated 2020 – 2023, and give you a tick. They wouldn’t perhaps know that this policy is required to be reviewed annually so actually needs to be looked at. So the audit comes back positive, school leaders take no further action and it isn’t discovered until OFSTED or an unhappy parent go looking and find out it doesn’t meet statutory requirements.
It is a time consuming task to audit your website but I would stick with senior leaders doing this, or people with appropriate knowledge so this might include some governors etc. You could manage it in lots of ways because it doesn’t have to be done in one go. You could:
- assign a section to each SLT meeting over the course of a term and get it done that way
- assign some sections to each SLT member and let them do it over the course of a few weeks in leadership time
- go through it with your CoG in regular link meetings over a period of time
Having someone outside of your school with the appropriate level of knowledge complete your audit is really strong practice. Not only does it give you external, impartial verification, it also gives some useful feedback about how a stranger to your school was able to navigate your website and find the information you are required to publish.
We offer a comprehensive website audit service where we will check your site against all statutory requirements and provide you with a RAG rated report which you can use as evidence of compliance and / or an action plan. These have been extremely popular so far with incredibly positive feedback.
Not only will be check against statutory requirements, we also include any suggestions that we feel might be helpful to making your website the best it can be.
Use our comprehensive audit service for peace of mind.
Frequently asked questions
What do your audit process look like?
Firstly, we look at what type of school you are, e.g. Primary or Secondary and then whether you are a maintained school or academy (because the requirements differ depending on your type of school). We then carefully go through your website checking each criterion in the statutory requirements ensuring that the documents or information is available, that links work and that any documents are in date.
What do I receive after your audit?
You will receive a report with a RAG rating next to every requirement for your website. If you have any amber or red colours, there will be an accompanying comment explaining why this isn’t green and suggestions where appropriate for what needs to be done. In some cases, even when a criterion is fully met and coloured green, we may include a comment with some hints or tips that could be useful.
What do the colours mean on your report?
Green – complete and no action required.
Amber – present but needs attention, e.g. may be out of date or missing some information.
Red – missing from the website or incorrect.
Does your audit meet the statutory requirements as they are today?
Yes, the DfE site is checked regularly to ensure that our audits meet statutory requirements as they are today. We also get weekly updates from the DfE informing us of any changes to their statutory requirements to ensure that our audits are always correct at the date of publication.
Do you actually look at the documents or just make sure that they are available on the site?
We do actually check the documents to make sure they are in date and, for things like the Pupil Premium report, make sure that they are on the correct template.
Find our Statutory School Website Audit here.