From Special Measures to Good in just two years

Farzana Shah: A hospital school

The challenge

Farzana was newly appointed as the Headteacher of a hospital school whilst undertaking her NPQH with OLP. The week before she took up post, the school, that had previously been judged outstanding, was inspected and placed into special measures.

"I had to think and act fast... being in special measures gave me the main driver I needed to implement real change."

The school’s situation provided an ideal and pressing focus. Her project would be to get the school out of special measures.

Action taken

Farzana adopted a systematic approach to her challenge.

  • She started by meeting with the head of a local primary school who had successfully led his school out of special measures.
    "He really emphasised the need for an action plan for getting out of special measures, so I understood how crucial this was."
  • She engaged governors and the local authority’s School Effectiveness Partner, presenting an action plan for discussion.
  • She met with parents whom she had invited to attend an ‘Ofsted surgery’.

The reaction from governors and parents was extremely positive. However, when Farzana presented the issues to staff and shared her plans:

"I quickly realised some of them were in denial about being in special measures and they felt that the Ofsted inspector had not understood the context of our school."

At this point Farzana turned to her NPQH training to provide insight into her situation:

"I had read and heard about similar reactions in other schools placed into special measures in the NPQH materials and from my placement school headteacher. This was useful to know and explained the staff’s limited input into the action plan."

Farzana drew from the NPQH qualification during a challenging first year in headship:

"There were some ‘fierce conversations’ at times… some of the practices that were challenged were quite questionable to be honest. By constantly taking the conversation back to the impact on students, I maintained my composure and decorum. These and other experiences helped me to demonstrate the NPQH competencies of Resilience & Emotional Maturity and Holding Others to Account.

"I had to set about bringing rapid change so the theories of Kotter and Tuckman on the change process resonated with me… It was the ‘norming’ stage I wanted to get to, and for the ‘performing’ to develop after that.

"I shared learning from my NPQH modules with stakeholders… when it came to us evaluating and updating our curriculum offer, I shared with governors the thinkpiece from my elective module on Curriculum design."

The qualification supported Farzana through a very difficult and challenging time helping to keep her grounded. She describes the face-to-face days, when she was able to meet up with like-minded people, and the support from her mentors, as ‘invaluable’. The NPQH modules, she says, helped her to see the bigger picture and to always to keep the impact on students as her main priority.

The impact

Farzana quickly recognised that she would be able apply many more facets of her learning from NPQH to the processes she would undertake in the coming months. Just how successfully she did this can be judged from Ofsted’s verdict little over a year later:

"The college is transformed. It now provides a good education for students and makes an effective contribution to their recovery."
Ofsted, 2014

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