The current SIAMS Schedule (Sept 2018 revised Sept 2022) is being replaced by a new SIAMS Framework from September 2023.
Dr Margaret James, National Director for SIAMS, describes the new framework as radically different for how the inspection process will happen but reassuringly (for schools and governors) the content is relatively unchanged from what we are working on now.
The 2023 SIAMS Framework does not reimagine what it means to be a Church school but the approach taken by SIAMS inspectors will be slightly different from before. Instead of focusing on lists of inspection criteria, inspectors will explore with school leaders whether and how, through its theologically rooted Christian vision the school is living up to its foundation as a Church school, enabling people to flourish. High level Inspection Questions (IQs) will provide a structure within which this can be done. There are six IQs for (former) voluntary controlled schools, and seven for (former) voluntary aided schools. The seventh addresses teaching and learning in religious education for voluntary aided schools.
How school leaders choose to live out their Christian foundation and vision will be reflective of the school’s context. Inspectors will work with school and trust leaders in scrutinising whether actions are having the required impact and then make judgements. Most of the evidence that is gathered during a SIAMS inspection can be described as qualitative. This means that the evidence tends to be descriptive, observed subjectively, and based on/open to interpretation. This will be done in a very collaborative way with the school – a series of open and honest conversations will take place as part of evidence gathering.
Rather than giving a grade to this type of evidence, inspectors will use it to award one of two judgements. Based on the six or seven IQs of the 2023 Framework:
- IQ1 How does the school’s theologically rooted Christian vision enable pupils and adults to flourish?
- IQ2 How does the curriculum reflect the school’s theologically rooted Christian vision?
- IQ3 How is collective worship enabling pupils and adults to flourish spiritually?
- IQ4 How does the theologically rooted Christian vision create a culture in which pupils and adults are treated well?
- IQ5 How does the theologically rooted Christian vision create an active culture of justice and responsibility?
- IQ6 Is the religious education curriculum effective (with reference to the expectations set out in the Church of England’s Statement of Entitlement for Religious Education)?
- IQ7 What is the quality of religious education in (former) voluntary aided schools, or in former voluntary controlled schools in which denominational religious education is taught?
One of two judgements will be reached (however these will not be published on the schools report or be in the public domain):
J1 Through its vision and practice, the school is living up to its foundation as a Church school and is enabling pupils and adults to flourish.
J2 The school’s vision and practice are not enabling it to fully live up to its foundation as a Church school. This is for the following reason/s. (The inspector will select all those that apply)
- School and trust leaders have not ensured that there is a theologically rooted Christian vision for the school that is enabling pupils and adults to flourish.
- School and trust leaders have not ensured that the curriculum reflects the school’s Christian vision. o School and trust leaders have not ensured that collective worship is enabling pupils and adults to flourish spiritually.
- School and trust leaders have not ensured that pupils and adults are treated well.
- School and trust leaders have not ensured that the school’s Christian vision creates an active culture of justice and responsibility.
- School and trust leaders have not ensured that the provision, profile, and priority of religious education result in an effective curriculum.
- In a (former) voluntary aided school, or in a former voluntary controlled school in which denominational religious education is taught, school and trust leaders have not ensured that the quality of teaching is good, and that pupils make at least expected progress.
Under the 2023 SIAMS Framework, schools are expected to have a theologically rooted Christian vision that shapes and drives their work. This is not strikingly different from the expectations of the 2018 Schedule but, from September 2023, inspectors will explore the vision in depth with leaders. ‘Theology’ is the study of the nature of God and of religious belief; therefore, ‘theological’ means that which is related to the nature of God and of religious belief. Christian theology consists of the teachings of the Bible as well as the teachings and traditions of the Church. Together, these elements should feed into a school’s discussions of what the Christian vision for its work might be. The Church of England Vision for Education is one example of a theologically rooted Christian vision. Diocesan Boards of Education and Diocesan Academy Trusts may also have their own to which schools may refer for guidance.
When establishing or developing a Christian vision, school leaders may benefit from asking themselves and their teams a number of questions. These could include, for example:
- What does the original Christian foundation of the school say that the school is for?
- What are the most pressing needs of the community?
- What does the Bible teach about this/these needs, and about what education in its broadest sense is for? Do the teachings and traditions of the Church provide any additional wisdom?
If approached in this way, the school’s vision will be a theologically rooted one. The vision may include reference to a Bible verse or story, and it may not. There is no one definitively correct approach, as long as the vision has theological roots in accordance with the original purpose of the school; shapes and drives the school’s work; is relevant for the school community; and is effective.
Inspectors will explore with school leaders how the Christian vision was developed, and how it can be described as a ‘theologically rooted Christian vision’. They will do this to ensure that they have an accurate understanding of the school’s work and context.
So, what should governors do next?
The everyday work of Church schools should be enabling them to live up to their foundation, regardless of any inspection by SIAMS. However, it is understandable that schools will want to prepare for the occasion of an inspection. If school and its governors are unsure about the development of the school’s theologically rooted Christian vision, they should consider the advice in this blog and engage with their diocesan education team to focus on this as a matter of urgency. The next step is governors should be clear about the difference between a Christian vision that shapes and drives their work, and Christian values by which the Christian vision is outworked. A set of Christian values is not the same as a Christian vision, and if they are presented as such to an inspector the judgement is likely to indicate that the school does not have a theologically rooted Christian vision.
School governors should not be concerned about being inspected under the new Framework. As explained in this blog, there are no new concepts, and what it means to be an effective Church school has not been reimagined. Governors should not expect that the SIAMS inspection of one school will be identical to that of another. It is context driven and the route and direction of an inspection will look different for each school as a result.
Governors need to become familiar with the reframing of the language and inspection approach the 2023 Framework will have. This includes the slightly revised School Summary SEF and Ongoing SEF documents found on the national SIAMS website.
This contains the latest guidance, documents and resources to support you on your inspection journey. Likewise contacting the diocese for support and advice is another way forward. Our diocese offers a wide range of support for governors and school leaders in the preparation for inspection. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you need anything.