Why audits and inspections are a good thing by Helen Burge

In the last nine months, I’ve been involved with the following audits and inspections:

  • H&S audit on both school campuses
  • Finance audits, including year end and two mid-year
  • Data audit
  • Catering operations analysis
  • Cyber Security audit
  • Website review
  • Compliance audit

The pupil premium, SEND and safeguarding reviews later this year will be internal MAT reviews, as was the website review. All the other audits and inspections are part of support packages our school has in place to ensure we are compliant with statutory requirements. In addition to these*, there are Governor walks, discussions and monitoring. Due to the volume of audits, it’s a good idea to space them out throughout the year - doing four of them in three weeks, in the term after converting to an academy, isn’t advisable in my experience!

So why is an inspection or an audit a good thing?  Why invite someone in to scrutinise your work?

Well, quite simply an audit is a systematic examination of what is going on compared to what should be going on. Outcomes from audits can range from a lovely pat on the back, to a long list of tasks which need to be completed quite urgently - normally the outcomes sit somewhere in between.  These outcomes are based on the evidence presented during the audit. 

You cannot hide your practice. In fact, you shouldn’t hide it. We work in schools, using public funding to create better learning and life outcomes for children. Therefore, we should be audited to check that our financial procedures are robust and the school isn’t a potential risk to health. Even though children might not feature directly in the audit, it is all about the children and our staff – protecting them, ensuring our procedures will not harm them, their data, their future. They really are worthwhile.

The audits have frameworks with (hopefully) clear statements which we can RAG (Red, Amber, Green) ourselves against prior to the actual audit taking place. This will help us self-identify our areas for development, which we can use to create an action plan to focus the school on improving.  The action plan should feed into the School Improvement Plan and should be shared with others in school; Governors for example can monitor them.

Audits are also a chance to discover the ‘Even Better Ifs.’ Through discussion with the auditors you could uncover best practice they’ve seen in other schools, and then consider whether that’s the right approach for your school.  Recently on #SBLTwitter, @runningSBM asked whether it was just him that looks forward to the H&S audit, I wasn’t surprised to see many SBL colleagues in agreement with him, in fact no one said no! Often our audits validate the job that we do.

Audits provide us with a framework to guide our practice, an opportunity to discuss with an expert and an opportunity to realise how much progress has been made or still needs to be made. It can be the trigger to make slight or large changes to improve the outcomes for our schools. Audits are our opportunity to share ideas with experts who share the SBL love!

* This list of audits is quite long, but maybe your school has additional ones that I’ve forgotten