How objective is ofsted??

(45 Posts)
hellohellohihi Fri 17-May-13 18:56:51

A primary school near me gets outstanding from ofsted. It's in a slightly dodgy part of town with lots of free-school-dinners and non-English speakers.

Talking to a friend about who reckons outstanding there is prob the equivalent of satisfactory or good at the other local school which are in a naicer part of town...

So just how objective/subjective is ofsted??

mrz Fri 17-May-13 19:08:41

Tell your friend that outstanding in the naicer part of town is likely to be the equivalent of satisfactory in the primary school near you ...
incidentally satisfactory no longer exists

jellysmum77 Fri 17-May-13 19:09:32

I would say if a school in those circumstances got an outstanding then they are probably doing s fantastic job with the children.

jellysmum77 Fri 17-May-13 19:10:14

Agreed mrz

schooldidi Fri 17-May-13 19:13:34

It's incredibly hard to get rated Outstanding anywhere. So the school must be doing an absolutely wonderful job if they can motivate children with difficult backgrounds to achieve. I've known one Outstanding Secondary school in a challenging area and I agree it's Outstanding, but there's no way I want to teach there, it's so much more hard work than the Good Secondary down the road in the middle class suburb.

deleted203 Fri 17-May-13 19:19:05

Outstanding means it has ticked all of Osted's criteria to meet the standard. They don't upgrade it because they feel sorry for the poor, black kids.

And no, it doesn't mean it would have just been 'satisfactory' if they were in a 'naice' part of town.

Having said that, Ofsted is a load of shite, anyway. One of the things they will have been looking at is how many levels of progress kids have made based on their alleged starting point. So I would presume that your 'dodgy' school has taken a lot of pupils who are not native English speakers or who came from a disadvantaged background and managed to move them up perhaps 3 levels due to some excellent teaching.

Ofsted are data obsessed, IMO. So my local (excellent) primary school dropped from Outstanding to Requires Improvement based on the fact that 'attendance figures were unsatisfactory'.

No shit, Sherlock. They had chicken pox through the school last year and a nasty sickness/diarrhoea bug. With 80 pupils in the whole school, if you get half of them off for a week or two with chicken pox then your attendance looks poor. Doesn't mean the school is crap.

ipadquietly Fri 17-May-13 22:56:12

It's all down to progress.

If you start with nothing and get all children to above national expectation, then you are outstanding. (Take into account the resources (teachers, TAs, pupil premium) that get thrown at schools where children start with nothing...)

If you are in a leafy green area where children start with some academic capability, you are unlikely to show the meteoric progress of the 'deprived' school. Hence, you are less likely to be graded 'outstanding'.

learnandsay Sat 18-May-13 08:46:13

Maybe true, but I've got to take my hat off to a bit of meteoric progress no matter where it's happening.

seeker Sat 18-May-13 08:49:22

"Ofsted are data obsessed, IMO. So my local (excellent) primary school dropped from Outstanding to Requires Improvement based on the fact that 'attendance figures were unsatisfactory'."

Sorry, but no it didn't. Not based on one year's attendance figures which were easily explained by an epidemic.

mrz Sat 18-May-13 08:53:36

I disagree with ipadquiety ... and would dispute that schools where children start with nothing automatically get resources thrown at them is still very much a post code lottery with entitlement to free school meals being a criterion for pupil premium

seeker Sat 18-May-13 08:53:45

OP look the school up on here.

Have a look at the progress made by low, middle and high attainers. Look at the narrowing the gap figures. You get a much better picture if you read this alongside the OfSTED

StuffezLaYoni Sat 18-May-13 08:55:42

The school's data plays a massive part. If the children aren't making good progress, the school as a whole cannot be graded good. Even if individual lessons seen on the day were good.

In my NQT year I remember working at a school in SM and being shown round an Outstanding school in a really tough area, as part of a course I was doing. I remember thinking "God, the work on these displays is from last year!" And "they don't stick success criteria into their books - how can they be outstanding when we do all this and are not?" Whereas five years down the line, I've come to realise they were a massive school in a very difficult area with high levels of pupils coming and going through the year...but still showed outstanding progress.

mrz Sat 18-May-13 08:59:16

Ofsted have finally become wise to the fact that many "leafy green " schools with supportive parents were "coasting" rather than challenging pupils.

learnandsay Sat 18-May-13 09:02:12

Aren't we back to this differentiation with challenging all pupils. I've read a couple of illuminating discussions on TES about how difficult teachers find differentiation.

StuffezLaYoni Sat 18-May-13 09:03:39

Mrz that is so true. When I moved to my current (leafy but on outskirts of difficult town) school, I inherited a group of girls with 5b targets but who were stuck on 4Cs and Bs. A quick look through their past books showed lots of ticks and Lovely and V. Goods but no challenge! It was the kind of "nice" girls and they really didn't like having their work picked apart this year to begin with, but almost without exception they have risen to the challenge and hopefully got the fives they deserve.

Spongingbobsunderpants Sat 18-May-13 09:08:30

Under the new framework, it is incredibly hard to get outstanding. If your results are not outstanding (based on achievement, not attainment) then you cannot get outstanding in any of the other three categories. The thinking is that your teaching and learning cannot be outstanding if the results are not, leadership of the school cannot be outstanding if they haven't achieved outstanding teaching and learning and outstanding results etc, etc,

Has the school been done under the new framework? (only introduced this year) Lots of previously outstanding schools have dropped to good or needing to improve (no satisfactory anymore). Only one Primary I know of , since January, has retained Outstanding, and no secondaries.

A lot of outstanding and good schools are shitting themselves because they only got 'satisfactory' results last time but outstanding for everything else. Under the new framework, unless they have raised their results, they will lose outstanding and may even go in to 'needing to improve'

learnandsay Sat 18-May-13 09:13:01

It's rumoured that a head killed herself because she feared losing her school's outstanding status.

mrz Sat 18-May-13 09:25:53

It isn't a rumour

teacherwith2kids Sat 18-May-13 09:34:50

I would agree with seeker about the attendance figures. The school I worked in had lower than expected attendance due to its intake, and remained stubbornly below the level generally regarded by Ofsted as 'requires improvement' - and we still rose a level when Ofsted came (from the old Saisfactory to the new Good [which remembering that the levels have changed so that what used to mean an Oustanding now means a Good wasn't bad going])

Ofsted looked very thoroughly at the figures over several years (down to our analysis of attendance by different groups etc), looked at everything that we had done to improve them, looked at the context of the school, and said that attendance was in fact Good in that context. So attendance alone, especially if there is a good 'story' about why it is low, wouldn't change the overall level.

I would agree with Mrz that a school in a difficult area getting Outstanding is almost certainly a 'better school' - in terms of quality of teaching and learnng, care for and focus on individual children, innovative practice - than many schools in leafier areas getting far higher results (in terms of exit grades) but similar or lower Ofsteds. Yes, the absolute 'exit grades' of the children would only allow a school with a different intake to get a Requires Improvement or a Good, but the actual 'what the school does to the children' in the school in more difficult curcumstances in order to get those grades will be much, much more and the Outstanding grading will reflect that.

I would also argue against the idea that it is 'easier' to get meteoric progress with children with lower starting points. Yes, a few of those children will be 'diamonds in the rough' - children who simply need goo teaching to move from a low starting point to a high finishing point. However, the factors that made their starting points low - little or no pre-school education or stimulation or conversation [we had children arriving with no spoken language, having never really conversed with by anyone in their pre-school years], no toys or books in the home, poor housing, low parental literacy, poor diet, lack of sleep due to unsuitable or inadequate housing, little or no experience of the world, parents who are absent or addicted to various substances, in prison or sleeping all day due to working all night (in the normal or 'night' economy), already being carers for even younger siblings, being cared for only by slightly older children than themselves, frequent moves around the country, no parental value placed on education etc etc etc - do inhibit the progress made by many such children, so if a school CAN get metoric progress from such a cohort they are doing very well indeed. And before you say that I am exaggerating - I have encoutered all the above (and more) in only a few years at a school with an only slightly 'interesting' intake. Colleagues who teach in genuinely 'rough' areas will have encountered much more.

teacherwith2kids Sat 18-May-13 09:37:04

Yep, L&S, not a rumour. Head was known to my old head - all involved incredibly shocked.

mrz Sat 18-May-13 09:42:53

She had recently taken over an outstanding school and realised it wasn't "outstanding"

learnandsay Sat 18-May-13 10:11:56

Can't have that happening again. Filling in tests on behalf of kids is one thing to placate silly classifications. But this? No. Enough is enough.

mrz Sat 18-May-13 10:17:22

But it has happened more than once L&S

Wellthen Sat 18-May-13 10:46:16

I have experienced both - schools that have been given a good or outstanding and aren't at all and schools who really struggled to get a good because their school was 'so nice' (the inspector actually said something to this affect, basically suggesting working there was a peice of piss), competely missing the fact that many of their children has less than supportive families and low starting points due to general low ability rather than neglect.

If a school has outstanding their data must satisfy so, short of cheating, they are not the equivilant to satisfactory as they have very good progress. But I agree with the general point that ofsted are not completely objective.

NynaevesSister Sat 18-May-13 10:58:16

Our school recently retained its outstanding under the new framework. It is true that a really good teaching makes up for a lot. The school is inner city classified with high level of child poverty. Lots of free school meals, and English as a second language. But also a very high level of middle class families send their children there (area has a lot of attractive Victorian houses at cheaper prices than North London). We were inspected at same time as a nearby school that, by dint of Londons bizarre geography is in a well heeled, well off area. That school went up from Good to Outstanding. Knowing people there I know they too have very good teaching as well. It can be done.

mrz Sat 18-May-13 18:44:53
cornypedicure Sat 18-May-13 18:50:00

I presume that the OP's friend works in a naicer part of town and her school hasn't been graded as outstanding?

KatyDid02 Sat 18-May-13 18:55:26

learnandsay, it's very, very sadly, not a rumour.
Some of my colleagues worked with her.

cory Sat 18-May-13 19:04:33

I don't know whether a school can actually be downgraded over attendance. But I know that dd's head thought so and tried very hard to get shot of children with chronic health problems. Because obviously they would be the ones pulling the figures down longterm. It's shit to be the parent whose child is seen as a liability sad

KatyDid02 Sat 18-May-13 19:05:46

Oh, and OP, it is possible for schools in a naicer part of town to be graded outstanding.
Looking at 6 schools that I am familiar with that are all within 3 miles or so of each other:

School A, relatively deprived area compared to the rest of the town: outstanding
School B, geographically in between A&C, in an average area with some relative deprivation: requires improvement
School C, in a naice area: outstanding
School D: same location as school B. Satisfactory (defunct category, now called requires improvement)
School E: geographically roughly half way between A&C, takes children from the same catchment area as A&Cgrinutstanding
School F: same location as E, same catchment as A,B,C,D and E. good with outstanding features.

It's all down to the data you have. Without good data you cannot get good or outstanding no matter how good the teaching is.

Willsmum79 Sat 18-May-13 21:21:28

School A: Made a 20% increase in attainment in two years. LEA grades school as 'good' and SEN as 'outstanding'. School now officially 'oversubscribed'. OFSTED recently graded the school as 'requires improvement' because achievement was not 'good' despite the progress.

School B: Achievement is 12% below School A, has a falling roll yet graded as 'good'.

Read it as you will.

cornypedicure Sat 18-May-13 21:26:10

are school A and school B in the same area or is this an example of inner city schools and leafy suburbs?

teacherwith2kids Sat 18-May-13 21:29:06

I meant to post earlier to say that recent changes in Ofsted criteria put much more emphasis on 'raw' results and 'absolute levels', with less on 'context' and 'progress' - so it will become more difficult for schools with very challenging intakes to reach Outstanding, as to do so their results need to be outstanding, on a par with schools from very different circumstances.

Morebiscuitsplease Sat 18-May-13 21:36:23

Our school has outstanding, but not outstanding results. KS1 last year, all neighbouring schools did better as with KS2. We were in the bottom third for the LA. I don't hunk it is a bad school but not outstanding. OFted not due to visit unless results nosedive. sad

Morebiscuitsplease Sat 18-May-13 21:37:03

Sorry...autocorrect, think not hunk ....

teacherwith2kids Sat 18-May-13 21:39:02

Always worth looking at the date on an Ofsted. With 'Outstanding' schools being inspected rarely if ever, an outdated 'Outstanding' can cling to a school long, long after it is merited. Also, any 'Good' obtained within the last 12-15 months is worth an old 'Outstanding'....

AmandaPayneNeedsANap Sat 18-May-13 21:47:06

Is that really true Teacher? The school DD1 got allocated went from Satisfactory in its last inspection to Good (with outstanding teaching in reception specifically flagged) in the Spring term. My only concerns about the school are actually geographical - but it would be interesting to know whether it has actually gone satisfactory (so needs improvement now) to outstanding.

KatyDid02 Sat 18-May-13 21:48:02

Yes, I agree with what teacherwith2kids says, it's been 4+ years since the school that mine used to go to has been inspected because they were outstanding. They have had two new heads since then.

teacherwith2kids Sun 19-May-13 09:12:53


If you read the detail of what Ofsted means by Good, it now contains pretty much the same words as used to be in the detail of 'Outstanding'. And I'm not absolutely up to date, as that was in the revision before the most recent - the bar keeps rising. In the newest version, the different areas are much more interdependent so you cannot get a higher grade overall if certain things are at a lower grade.

However, I would say that in its implementation, especially with the re-naming of Satisfactory as Requires Improvement, there is a small category of 'lower end of Good' which is fairly like the 'old' Good, but it IS small. Most schools now getting 'Good' have achieved a standard equivalent to the old 'Outstanding'.

schooldidi Sun 19-May-13 09:24:28

It's been 7 years since my school was last inspected and our 'outstanding' from back then has clung to us and helped us keep our pupil numbers up in a time when all the neighbouring schools have falling pupil numbers due to a low birth rate those years. We've had 2 new heads since then and the SMT have ALL changed from a very experienced SME to now none of them are over 40. The school feels very different now to 7 years ago, yet we still have the 'outstanding' tag.

We were inspected this week and while I know the grading I'm not allowed to say (they said I personally am 'good'). It will be interesting to see how that affects our pupil numbers for the next few years til the next inspection.

schooldidi Sun 19-May-13 09:25:06

That should be SMT, not SME.

MilkRunningOutAgain Sun 19-May-13 10:05:07

The village school was graded requires improvement in 2012. Due to not making sufficient progress in ks1, though ks2 results good. Looking more into it, the yr 2 class about whom most of the criticism was focused was, by chance, composed two thirds of summer born boys. It's a small school and so this type of thing happens every few years, the intake varies. Perhaps there was more to it, I'm just a parent and don't know the details, but according to the letter ofsted sent round and to the minutes of the governors meetings I got hold of, that was the reason. It seems odd to me. Until the requires improvement the school was stable and had lots of experienced teachers. Now it's a mess, haemorrhaging teachers, pupils and with cross parents. We've stuck it for a year, but probably not much longer.

Startail Sun 19-May-13 13:15:12

Sadly, I don't think Ofsted are objective at all. I think Ofsted now have only one aim - to continue, what ever party wins the next election, to exist.

The only way to do this is to keep finding excuses to up and down grade schools, even when no reason exists. They know what grade they are going to give a school before they walk in the door.

DDs secondary has gone from good with oustanding features, through satisfactory, to SM.

The only change, GCSE results have gone up and are the best in the area.

wheresthebeach Sun 19-May-13 16:02:29

Our 'outstanding' school makes great progress. That's because of the tutoring that goes on (parents who don't tutor have been known to be told to start). A tutor agency comes in on year 4 to encourage the kids to join with letters sent to parents. So are the results down to the teachers or the tutoring? Prob a combination but some parents recently told that the school only teaches the NC so their child who was gifted in maths could not be catered for. So of course they started to tutor!
School gets a great rep and parents spend a small fortune.

Elibean Sun 19-May-13 16:11:04


A lot of variation depending on area, by the sound of it? Which makes it all a bit hit and miss.

Our recent Ofsted (London) seemed, admittedly to my own surprise, to be reasonably fair and humane. By the old framework, we would have been 'outstanding', as it was we missed it by a whisker - and only because of points that were already being addressed by the school and governors.

But it sounds as though it depends a lot on the individual inspectors, and maybe the political arena in the local area. Which is frustrating and depressing.

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