Carole Jones, Headteacher of Yeading Junior school, responds to Ofsted’s latest inspection guidance.

Carole Jones is an active member of the #iwill campaign’s Education Steering Group and Headteacher at Yeading Junior School, Hayes, a school which puts character education and social action at the heart of the curriculum. Read her reflections on the consultation, as well as what her own school has learned from years of prioritising social action.

The Ofsted consultation on the Proposed Education Inspection Framework 2019 is an encouraging step forward. I also welcome Ofsted’s holistic approach to determining the Quality of Education hope that Ofsted will now acknowledge the schools who are doing great work in these areas.

There is a challenge ahead for Ofsted in determining what constitutes ‘good’ social action. They will need to define this clearly at the outset, requiring them to have good knowledge of what is already happening on the ground in schools. In respect of my own context, at Yeading Junior School, our children are already acting, leading and debating at a really mature level.

It is also encouraging to see that inspectors will be trained to acknowledge the role that communities and faith groups also play in the development of children’s social action.

It is certainly positive to see the recognition given to youth social action, however, given the steps some schools have already taken, this ‘mention’ could be even more explicit, so that schools could more explicitly champion the work they are doing. Hopefully, through the consultation process, social action and service will assume a greater importance for all schools as well as a greater focus for the inspection.

Many Primary schools, such as my own, have already made great strides in developing Character Education and embedding it within the ethos of their school. Many have also harnessed social action as part of providing a rich and wide curriculum. I had hoped, therefore, that there would have be a greater recognition of the development of character and youth social action reflected in the Quality of Education judgement.

I do feel that the framework needs to give greater clarity on how pupil voice will be captured, as well as how this will impact on judgement, as learners are great advocates, both for their school and for their own actions.  These young voices are well-equipped to explain how social action enhances their learning and are key in articulating the schools vision, values and journey.

At my own school, where we already emphasise social action, children are passionate and skilled at doing good; they are driven by a strong moral purpose to support others. They are reflective children and carefully consider the outcomes of their actions.

Our children discuss and debate issues that have an impact on their lives, community and local areas across our curriculum.  Our learners already draw up action plans for delivering projects and campaigns, approached in a cross-curricular manner. I’m pleased to see the new framework endorse this approach, and I hope it will be embraced as best practice.

As a result of embedding social action in our school, our children are astute when identifying and considering challenging issues, demonstrate clear understanding on how to measure the impact of their work and show determination in sharing their work with others. I hope future inspections acknowledge the work that has led to children developing these skills, which are transferable across the curriculum.

In our school, we have seen how those that are the most engaged with social action develop positive attitudes, both in their learning and towards other young people. Our young leaders in social action are also great advocates for the character virtues which we put at the heart of the curriculum; these include Resilience, Teamwork and Compassion.

Six of our Year Six ‘Agents of Change’ shared the below message. I include this here as I believe it is essential to value their voices and take their views into consideration.

 “Social Action makes us feel confident and self-empowered.  It makes us confident to talk to adults and gives our honest opinion. Over time, we feel it has made us empathise with other people and take action for their situations.

All our actions are linked together. 

We first find a cause where we can help others such as, homelessness.  We plan our Social Action together and try to make it impactful.  Then, we make it inclusive across the school.  Together we carry out our Social Action. Finally, we reflect and look at the impact we have made.

However, we don’t stop there, we continue to raise awareness and support causes that need our help.  These may affect the community or the world.  We feel that when we undertake social action we are learning in a more powerful way and we can use those skills elsewhere in our learning. For example, we recently shared our thoughts and skills with an organisation around Modern Day Slavery.

All this might help us in the future when we are interviewed for a job.  We also feel that we have a more developed vocabulary showing an expanded variety of words. Working through projects and topics is a more exciting way to learn. 

The best part so far has been to see our messages spread by ourselves on television! We don’t necessarily have to be an adult to make a change, but passionate children wanting to support causes.  These experiences have made us more mature and have also influenced our families to take part in social action.