B11 Education Case Study: Burnage Academy for Boys

For many schools, working with a school improvement partner can be a challenging experience. It can be difficult to obtain the insight needed, and harder still to detail objectively the impact on school performance.

Some schools, though, do experience exceptional results when working through an education consultancy, and Burnage Academy for Boys was one of those to have found success when working alongside B11 Education.

Helen Carter, Deputy Head of Burnage Academy for Boys, joined us to discuss the challenges the school was facing, and how B11 played a key part in working with Burnage to create a solution to those challenges.

The challenge faced by Burnage Academy for Boys

In 2023, having previously been judged to be outstanding by Ofsted in 2018, Burnage Academy knew an Ofsted inspection was on the horizon. They knew that, due to the previous inspection being conducted in the old framework, the new inspection would be under completely different circumstances.

Helen stated that “We wanted to see where we were. We needed to become well-versed in how to do the dance, as it were. You know, there’s the day-to-day of how you run your school and then there’s the inspection. No matter what Ofsted may say it is a different beast going through that inspection.”

How did B11 work with Burnage to provide support?

Preparation! Preparation was viewed as the most important factor for retaining their outstanding status. Using the analogy of running, Helen went on to say that “I would never go to the start line of a race without having prepared. We used B11 in order to prepare for our marathon with Ofsted. That’s really important because the preparation we did was critical in retaining our outstanding.”

In terms of preparation for an inspection, you need to know where you’re at – no holds barred.

Speaking at a recent Education Conference, Helen said to her peers “get yourselves involved with B11.”

“What B11 provide is a really critical, insightful and pragmatic way to approach the inspection. From the first initial meeting we got on very well with them and we enlisted their services in many areas. We ran an initial training session on how to have deep dive conversations with middle leaders. Essentially, when your senior leaders have got the narrative, the middle leaders have to be singing from the same hymn sheet.”

In terms of language, B11 highlighted the importance of ‘less is more’ when it comes to Ofsted discussions.

Helen continues, “Our initial practice with the heads of faculty exposed all the flaws. We thought we were doing and saying all the right things. But because many B11 consultants are experienced Ofsted inspectors (some being ex-HMI), they know that staff can sometimes fill the void of silence by going on and on with answers and not actually being critical and insightful as to what’s actually needed.”

Following initial discussions, B11 held a training session with senior and middle leaders, and the improvement was vast.

“One of our middle leaders who didn’t do very well in the initial discussion with B11 was unbelievable in the Ofsted inspection. She said it was hands down due to the training we provided as a senior leadership team with B11.”

“It’s really important to tell your school story framed in the Ofsted framework narrative.”

What was the outcome for Burnage?

“I cannot speak highly enough of the consultants who supported us. They were absolutely outstanding in their knowledge, in their support, in their approach. They knew which senior leaders they could really grill. They knew which they had to take a bit of a lighter touch with.

“They were incredibly insightful about the team, and they really developed us into feeling confident so that when the time came, yes, we felt nervous, we’re human! But we knew we had the right language. We knew we had the answers to the difficult questions.”

In terms of inspection, less is often more. Training sessions helped leaders to answer the questions asked only, not to veer off course and embellish or elaborate.

Speaking more of the support received, Helen explained, “We had a specific B11 deep dive into SEN. They brought in an expert to do a 90-minute phone call training session with the senior leadership team, which was so brutal and so draining. But my goodness, our 90-minute phone call on the day seemed far less stressful and challenging because we were confident we had the right language. They pushed us to the absolute max and we had the phrasing. We had the things to say. We’re telling our school story but framed in the Ofsted framework narrative and that’s that. That’s really important.”

In January 2024, Burnage Academy for Boys did indeed retain Ofsted Outstanding.

What’s next for Burnage Academy for Boys?

Following the initial pre-Ofsted support, B11 became a consistent SIP for Burnage. The relationships that have been built with school leaders and staff are vital to the success of the school and how they keep moving forward to improve education for all pupils.

The kind of people you get at B11 are those who are genuinely invested in education and who really want to support schools.

“Everybody worries about Ofsted. It’s brutal.”, says Helen. What’s good about B11, she continues, is “they recognise that truth. They want to help you through it. They are there to help you through it so that the experience becomes less bruising.”

To Helen’s initial running analogy – If you train harder, the race itself is not as bad!

Could B11 support your school too?

At B11 Education, we have been providing bespoke, transparent and insightful school improvement support for more than 12 years.

Our nationwide team of skilled consultants allow us to provide expert, in depth support, no matter the challenges faced by your school. Once described as a ‘one stop shop’, that’s exactly what we are, because the range of knowledge and expertise of our consultants is unmatched!

Identifying an establishment’s strengths and areas for development is the key to building better outcomes for all, first and foremost for pupils, but also for teachers and school leaders. Despite this being fundamental to a school’s success, it is a feat that can be hard to accomplish alone. As evidenced above, Burnage Academy for Boys were wise to this and we are proud to be able to work in partnership with them for the greater good of the school, its staff and its pupils.

A fresh set of eyes, a wealth of experience and objective feedback cannot be undervalued.

To find out how B11 Education can support you, please view Our Services.

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