Ofsted is using the five ECM outcomes as key points in primary school inspections. Dave Weston looks at how schools are supporting the outcomes and gives advice on preparing for inspection

Many primary headteachers have successfully started to integrate the key outcomes of the Every Child Matters agenda into the philosophy, culture and curriculum of their schools. It is important that primary schools show how the ECM agenda supports school improvement and that this is carefully outlined in school documents, especially the SEF and the school development/improvement plan. With regard to the specific aspects of the ECM agenda, primary schools should be able to show how they are supporting the five key outcomes.

Be healthy
The first outcome has become a major initiative for the government and LAs and significant resources have been allocated to this area. The first part of this outcome is the drive to introduce a healthier diet and lifestyle to all primary school pupils. All schools now have free fruit for all four- to seven-year-old pupils, unhealthy tuck shops have been banned and schools are introducing (with varying degrees of success) healthy lunchtime menus.

Many primary schools are now working towards (or have achieved) the Healthy Schools award. This involves a commitment from schools and staff to developing the four strands of:

  • healthy eating
  • physical activity
  • personal, social and health education (PSHE)
  • emotional health and wellbeing, including bullying.

Staying safe

All primary schools have now developed extensive anti-bullying policy documents linked closely to varying home-school contracts with parents and carers. Schools have also focused on all aspects of health and safety to ensure that pupils and staff have a safe working environment.

The Safer School Award is an important form of accreditation which confirms a school’s commitment to supporting the ‘staying safe’ aspect of the ECM agenda. Many schools have now achieved this award or are working towards it.

Enjoy and achieve

This strand is linked to the core work of every primary school. Providing a safe, secure learning environment and a rich, motivating curriculum is the aim of every headteacher and governing body. The revised primary strategy and the ‘excellence and enjoyment’ document have given schools the opportunity to innovate and design a curriculum appropriate to their own pupils. Many schools have taken these curriculum freedoms on board and brought in more creativity and flexibility. One successful primary school has used this flexibility to revise their curriculum by extending the six areas of learning from the Foundation Stage to KS1 and KS2. This school has created a curriculum based on core skills and values with a theme-based content. The five parts of this strand are the core activities of every school:

  • Ready for school.
  • Attend and enjoy school.
  • Achieve high educational standards at primary and secondary school.
  • Achieve personal and social development and enjoy recreation.
  • Parents and carers positively support learning.

For this strand schools also need to carefully monitor pupil attendance and to work closely with the education welfare officers and parents on a partnership basis. The key aspect for this strand is for schools to provide a stimulating and enjoyable curriculum which allows pupils to achieve their very best.

Making a positive contribution

This is an area primary schools have focused on in terms of developing the personal and social skills of pupils. Schools have always supported local, national and international charities by collecting money and through hands-on help. The developing role of school councils is a key aspect of this role in giving stakeholders a voice. Primary schools have been very active in helping environmental and community projects and this experience has been used to help develop the ‘citizenship’ aspect of the curriculum. One successful primary school has developed its international link in Africa by raising money to help build a classroom and to train up staff in ICT skills. This successful link was then accredited with the Schools Council International School Award. Heads should celebrate these positive developments in the school SEF by showing that involvement in community action has a positive impact on behaviour and helps the development of an awareness of the role of responsible citizens. The strands for this outcome emphasise this link and should support the work of every primary school.

Achieving economic wellbeing

This is the most difficult aspect of the ECM agenda for primary schools to deal with. While most of this strand impacts on secondary schools, there are ways that primary schools can support the development of economic wellbeing. A number of primary schools have used the school council as a means of developing economic understanding in pupils, in terms of understanding the relationship between school funding and the extent of resources available to pupils. Many schools have given the school council a budget to spend to enhance facilities for the pupils and have encouraged them to consult with pupils to decide the best way to get value for money for the allocated budget. Other primary schools have given each class a sum of money and then asked them to use it, to make more money for a nominated school or class charity. This supports enterprise and sometimes schools have linked the activity to an art and craft or technology project in terms of making items for sale. Although it is difficult, this strand can be addressed by creative thinking and by using the flexibility of the curriculum and by looking at ways to work with industry and business in supporting the primary school curriculum.

What are Ofsted looking at?

Ofsted are using the ECM outcomes as key points in primary school inspections. Within the section on ‘overall effectiveness’ the inspectors are considering how effective, efficient and inclusive is the provision of education, integrated care and any extended services. They will be evaluating the overall effectiveness of extended day provision, its impact on supporting the school’s approach to ECM and how it meets the needs of learners. Ofsted will also examine the effectiveness of links with other organisations in promoting the wellbeing of learners. This will consider the links with social care, health, leisure and the police services and how these links ensure pupil’s safety and wellbeing. With regard to the effectiveness of the Foundation Stage, Ofsted will be reviewing:

  • the extent to which children progress in their knowledge, understanding, skills and personal development, enjoy their education and make a positive contribution to their nursery class and community
  • the extent to which children stay safe and healthy, and their wellbeing is nurtured
  • the quality of education and care that children experience.

As with all aspects of Ofsted inspections, it should be remembered that a school can only be judged to be ‘good overall’ unless learners are judged to be making good progress. The developments in Every Child Matters should support, but not override, the key focus of high standards of achievement and attainment for every pupil.

What should primary heads do?

The Every Child Matters agenda is a challenging one for primary heads and governors. The key messages must include the importance of close collaborative working with social services, health, the police and leisure services in the overall interest in the wellbeing of every pupil. Schools should consider using the following checklist to see how they measure up regarding the implementation of the ECM agenda:

  • Ensuring that all the staff, governors and parents are fully aware of their ECM agenda responsibilities.
  • Linking the five aspects to the core school documents, ie SEF and SD/IP with associated evidence of successful initiatives and showing the impact of these developments.
  • Providing a safe and secure learning environment, which emphasises citizenship and is focused on tackling bullying and anti-social behaviour.
  • Developing an imaginative and stimulating curriculum which is motivating for all pupils and staff. This should underpin a school with a well-defined learning and teaching culture.
  • Bringing in a wide variety of sporting and leisure opportunities, to help every pupil succeed and develop wider skills and positive social attitudes.
  • Continuing to develop strong links with other children’s services – a key question should be how strong are the school links with social services, health and the police?
  • Consider the impact of the ECM agenda on the skills, expertise and experience of the school workforce and if there is a need for CPD in further integrated working.

Key reference: www.everychildmatters.gov.uk

Dave Weston is a school improvement partner