When Saira Sawtell joined St Osmund’s as Headteacher in the summer of 2018, behaviour was in a difficult place. Ofsted judged the school to be ‘Inadequate’, with their report highlighting that pupils showed ‘defiance to staff’ and that there was ‘no school system for managing behaviour routinely’. In short, the atmosphere between adults and students was uncomfortable. There was no behaviour strategy or approach for adults to follow and, as such, there was a wide range of adult behaviours, from ultra-caring to oppressive and aggressive.
The Ofsted report was the impetus for change. The first thing to go was the school’s Behaviour Policy. This was replaced with a Relationships Policy. This blended Therapeutic Thinking with the ‘When the Adults Change…’ approach of ‘Ready, Respectful, Safe’.
A new Assistant Headteacher (Pastoral Lead), Gareth Biddle, was appointed in March 2019 and was able to share the book ‘When the Adults Change Everything Changes’ with each Year Leader at the school. All staff, and not just teachers, were addressed and briefed to get on board with the ‘Ready, Respectful, Safe’ approach. The Assistant Headteacher and Headteacher worked together tirelessly, modelling the approach themselves and bringing on board Year Leaders to become additional key role models for the approach.
Detentions, isolations and other sanctions were replaced with ‘consequences’, a more relational approach. This didn’t sit well with all staff initially. After the poor Ofsted rating many staff had been left emotionally scarred. Some needed support to understand the rationale behind the new changes. Some members of staff looked elsewhere for employment. The school’s previous reputation was one of overriding kindness. This needed to be returned to, refreshed and modernised; this has happened.
St Osmund’s has now been through a complete student cycle (four plus years) of their Ready, Respectful, Safe approach. The Relationships Policy remains in place and is updated annually. Hot Chocolate Fridays, started in September 2019, continue every Friday to this day. Staff are all on board with the approach and new colleagues get inducted in what St Osmund’s refers to as its ‘Relationships First’ approach.
The school was inspected again by Ofsted in July 2022 and was judged to be ‘Good’. Amongst many positive statements, the report stated that ‘Pupils are happy at St Osmund’s. They feel warm and safe at school… the atmosphere is warm and friendly’ and that ‘There are positive relationships between staff and pupils’.
It has been a relentless journey, with high involvement needed from the SLT to change things and maintain the changes. However, it has paid off and St Osmund’s has turned itself around. The school is locally renowned for its genuine warmth and positive approach. Well done, St Osmund’s!