Are Ofsted being unrealistic about 3 sub-levels of progress?

(84 Posts)
SockPinchingMonster Mon 20-May-13 13:21:08

My children's school has just had an OFSTED inspection and has been downgraded from an 'Outstanding' school to one which 'Requires Improvement'. This was a bit of a shock to be honest - the school has a great reputation, has good SAT's results and from helping at the school myself I would say the school feels like a 'Good' school (not sure that I would describe it as outstanding as I feel there are a few areas that could be improved a bit).
Anyway the school have sent out a letter to parents saying how unfair the current criteria is to get a good or outstanding rating. They say that the main reason they were downgraded is because children had not achieved 3 sub-levels of progress between KS1 SAT's and KS2 SAT's, however the school has great SAT's results and is in the top 20% nationally for SAT results. Their argument is that children enter the school with a lot of knowledge already and have had a lot of parental input so are already at a good level when they start and it is therefore difficult to achieve the number of sub-levels progress that is expected.
So i guess i'm wondering if anyone (teachers especially) can shed any light on this 3 Sub-level thing - is it unfair and unachievable or are my children's school just making excuses and really they should be able to bring children up 3 sub-levels. My gut feeling is that it's unfair, but then a few of the comments OFSTED made about the school not challenging more able pupils sufficiently have me worrying about the standard of education in the school. If this 3 sub level thing is so hard to achieve does it mean that a lot of schools are going to be downgraded?

Elibean Mon 20-May-13 13:27:10

Our school has been graded 'Good' (almost 'Outstanding', but missed by a whisker).

We are very good indeed at value added, and most kids do make 3 sublevels of progress - but we are also one of the few primaries in our local area who never turn away statemented children, and we have a very level of EAL pupils. Hence, the 3 sublevel thing is not totally consistent across the school.

And most of all - children do not learn in straight lines. Some make huge progress in KS1, then not much in KS2, then leaps and bounds again in secondary. It is a bit black and white, but then I suppose any box ticking will be.

clam Mon 20-May-13 13:28:42

3 sub-levels? It should be a minimum of 2 whole levels (i.e. from a 2B to a 4B, or a 3C to 5C). An outstanding school should be achieving more than that.
But yes, many more schools are going, on the face of it, to be down-graded for not being able to jump through the new hoops that Ofsted are holding up.

Panzee Mon 20-May-13 13:31:39

Are you sure it's 3sub levels between y2 and y6? As clam says the norm is two levels. Some schools are unreasonably demanding 3 sub levels per year group.

SockPinchingMonster Mon 20-May-13 13:32:01

Oops think i mean 3 whole levels of progress - don't know where i got the sub-levels thing from.

ProudAS Mon 20-May-13 13:34:06

A sub level is a third of a level and children would normally be expected to progress by 3 sub levels in 2 years so if they are not making that progress over 4 years it is definitely a cause for concern.

Some schools administer optional SATs to children in year 4 and I suspect that they are talking about progress made from either year 2-4 or year 4-6.

The reason they are looking at three sub levels of progress is that this corresponds to a whole level (e.g. progress from secure level 3 to secure level 4) rather than simply saying that children have made one level of progress by going from 3 to 4 (possibly a high 3 to low 4).

SockPinchingMonster Mon 20-May-13 13:37:05

Sorry yes just looked at the letter again - i definitely mean 3 whole levels i.e. if they get a level 3 at end of KS1 then they are expected to be level 6 at end of KS2. Sorry for the confusion.

Elibean Mon 20-May-13 13:39:52

blush I meant levels too. Teach me not to MN when I'm supposed to be doing something else!

Whole levels.

SockPinchingMonster Mon 20-May-13 13:42:07

Haha me too Elibean, think I have Sub-levels in my head as was just reading something else about sub-levels - doh.

ProudAS Mon 20-May-13 13:44:38

Sorry Sock I didn't see you new message till I had finished replying to your original one.

Two levels of progress is the expectation but that doesn't mean that pupils capable of more shouldn't be challenged and supported to do so.

Also - the two levels of progress headline figure encourages schools to record children at the end of KS1 as 2A (high level 2) when, in fact, they are a low level 3. These pupils then need to make just one level of progress to reach level 4 and be counted as having progressed by 2 levels whilst putting them down as level 3 means that they have to actually make the two levels of progress. Looking at accelerated progress (3 levels) helps to redress this.

I do think however that the level system is flawed and sub levels should always be reported.

redskyatnight Mon 20-May-13 13:44:41

I also thought the norm between KS1 and KS2 was 2 whole levels.

So expecting 3 levels of progress for ALL children seems like a big step. But that is the case for all schools surely, not just ones who happen to have good results at KS1 ...

SockPinchingMonster Mon 20-May-13 13:48:59

Yes I think that 2 levels of progress would be fair but apparently since September 2012 this has changed to 3 levels of progress which is why our school is claiming that they went from Outstanding to Requires Improvement. Just wondered if other people think this is achievable or is our school making up excuses?

niminypiminy Mon 20-May-13 13:49:18

I'm actually pleased, in a funny way, to hear that a school where the children come in with a lot of knowledge and where there's parental input and where the SATS results look good can be reassessed in this way. So much of what Ofsted is doing at the moment is hounding schools with difficult catchments that it is good to know that they do look at schools in easier situations and see that they are sitting on their laurels. I know that sounds harsh, and it's clearly a huge shock for the school, but it's good to see that the pain is shared!

And yes, agree with clam that we are going to see a widespread trend for schools being downgraded because the new Ofsted framework is so stringent. (If you were paranoid, which of course I'm not, you might say the new Ofsted framework has been developed in order to make sure a lot of schools get downgraded.)

fourlittleangels Mon 20-May-13 13:49:54

I keep hearing about the new 'goal posts' and it being very difficult to get even the same ofsted result as previously even if they have continued to stay at the same level.

So when the tiny school at the bottom of our road were inspected I expected a possible downgrade. Things seems more difficult for them being so small. They went on to achieve good with outstanding feature (previous was good)

Then the next closest school which has been outstanding for many years just received outstanding across the board. From what I have read about the new guidelines I thought this was near impossible. So therefore they are either bloody amazing or 'know how to jump through hoops' as I have often read on mn.

What concerns me is, as a parent how do we know if outstanding/requires improvement means the school is good/not so good?? If it truly is done to hoop jumping or is that just scepticism?? As I have found myself still worrying with my children at a school with fab reports as people insinuate it doesn't stand for much and others have said a requires improvement school is at an advantage due to extra intervention...

DeWe Mon 20-May-13 13:56:11

That looks like a big drop by Ofsted, but less when you consider that Outstanding is much harder to get now than it used to be.

I don't think a school would be put into the improvement area just for not achieving the results. One local school was put as good (they'd hoped for outstanding) they say because last year's results were poor.

But if the children are not getting 3 sublevels over the entire KS2, that is worrying. That means that a child who gets a 2a (above expectations) at KS1 sats, isn't getting above a 3a (well below expectations), whereas if they did the expected progression (3 sublevels every 2 years in KS2 I think) they should be getting about 4a. So finishing a full level (or more) below where they should be.

I would be slightly concerned by the school "blaming" it on results, and saying it's unfair. Simply because while they're saying it's unfair then they're not looking objectively and looking for what they need to do to improve.

But each school inspection is going to vary as to the day they went in, which inspectors go in, a particular incident/parent the inspectors came across etc.
I was surprised to be told by someone that apparently the head inspector chooses who they take in with them. That means they may well be inclined to pick like-minded people. I would have thought they should have a mix (eg some male, some female and that sort of thing)

SockPinchingMonster Mon 20-May-13 13:56:59

Niminypiminy - Yes the school has definitely been resting on its laurels I think. As mentioned I help out at school and I must admit I have seen a few things which made me question the Outstanding grading that it had before. The school definitely liked to brag about the fact that it was Outstanding - there is a lot of snobbery amongst staff and some parents due to it having been 'Outstanding' - this current grading has been a complete shock and the school has come out with a million excuses as to why OFSTED are unfair in their grading but the main one was the level thing. So i'm thinking that if a school which is in the top 20% nationally for SAT's isn't reaching the expected levels then does this mean a lot of schools are going to be downgraded. This seems really unfair. Then again wasn't certain if the school was just making excuses because it's embarrassing to be downgraded.

niminypiminy Mon 20-May-13 14:06:08

The school I'm a governor at has just had a very disappointing ofsted (we went from satisfactory to inadequate), and although there are some things about the report that we feel are unfair, the only thing to do is to force ourselves to take on board the criticisms, to recognise that some of them are right, and do something about them.

It is worrying I think that the school seems to be making excuses for the Ofsted judgement -- really they need to be getting on with addressing the criticisms and climbing the hill back up.

DeWe Mon 20-May-13 14:06:10


I don't believe the 3 full levels. Sorry.
My dc's school was recently inspected and got outstanding. I know there were a fair number of dc who went in on level 3 all round. I know they didn't get anything like as many level 6s as they did level 3s. Just as a start off. I am certain that 3 full levels would be considered possible for some children, but nothing like expected.

Elibean Mon 20-May-13 14:16:45

I don't think this issue on it's own would be enough to move a school from one category to another. But it can be a factor.

We actually had a very positive Ofsted experience. But I think we were very lucky in our lead inspector, as well as having worked bloody hard as a school to improve.

I would be concerned at any school being only negative about their Ofsted report - as opposed to taking on board criticism and using it in a positive way. At the same time, box ticking and data really are only one aspect of a school, so if it is excellent in other ways I would want parents and staff to value that. Ofsted won't, always, though ours did verbally - they just don't have the 'codes' and stock phrases to do so in writing wink

SockPinchingMonster Mon 20-May-13 14:16:47

DeWe - Oh i'm kind of confused now because the letter i've got in front of me from the school states 'however OFSTED changed the goalposts from September 2012 and introduced a new target of 3 levels of progress through KS2' - So do you think that a school needs to aim for this but wouldn't necessarily be downgraded for not achieving it? Just trying to work out whether the school are making a lot of excuses or whether the system really is unfair as it stands. I am a bit annoyed at the school making lots of excuses - I would prefer them to just tell us what they intend to do to make the situation better.

tiggytape Mon 20-May-13 14:18:58

It is true to an extent - if the school have a very high ability intake, it can be more challenging to demonstrate swift or high levels of progression. However, it is also true that many schools with fantastic intakes have been guilty of coasting in the past. They can rely on getting high SATS results without actually bringing the children on a great deal from each starting point and don't add as much to thr children's learning or stretch them as much as other schools might.

A school with a low ability intake might be given more slack than your school in some areas but even they have to demonstrate good progress. These schools sometimes have the additional disadvantage that, even when they do achieve good progress, their SATS levels may still be below what is expected (and their grade reflect this) because the ability of each intake is so far below national expectations.

To me - the school's response to Ofsted is more telling than the Ofsted grade iteself. Generally Heads who are completely in denial about any aspects raised or openly hostile to the point of writing to parents to complain aren't on top of things. The school will have had a chance to challenge the report before it was made public and, presuming they did, the findings still stand.

Basically, I think it screams 'coasting'
A school can be rated less than good and still feature in the top 20% for SATS. The key is intake. If most children start the school at a very high standard and make only a tiny amount of progress, they will finish with excellent SATS results - but quite rightly this achievement is nolonger attributed entirely to the school's input.

Elibean Mon 20-May-13 14:21:52

Good points, tiggy, I agree with all of that.

And now I must do some work blushgrin

SockPinchingMonster Mon 20-May-13 14:22:11

Elibean - Yes that is what is concerning me - that the school have been so negative about OFSTED, basically accused them of being unfair in all of their observations, have typed up a document arguing with every point that the OFSTED inspectors have written. The worst argument goes something like 'Our 3 strongest teachers were not even observed by the inspectors'. All these excuses are making me quite angry which is why i was trying to work out how much stock OFSTED put in the 3 level of progress thing.
I don't want to be angry with the school if the whole inspection process is unfair but at the same time I don't know what to believe out of all these excuses the school are flinging about.

PastSellByDate Mon 20-May-13 14:24:59

Hi SockPinchingMonster:

I'm just a parent - but am very interested in the 'spin' on this from your school. I agree with De We just saying it is 'unfair' isn't exactly dealing with the fact that as professionals they are being asked to work to a certain target and aren't successfully meeting it.

first off - check out the statement OFSTED have made on the School Dashboard about expected progress:

I quote from page 9:

"Expected progress is a measure of school performance across a key stage. For expected progress to be achieved the pupil must progress through two National Curriculum levels between the end of Key Stage 1 and the end of Key Stage 2. Although schools may use key stage sub-levels, a pupil at any sub-level of Key Stage 2 (2a, 2b or 2c) who reached Level 4 at the end of that key stage would be deemed to have made the expected progress. This is because National Curriculum tests and assessments are used to define whole levels rather than sub-levels."

and more info here:

So basically - as far as I can see government documentation dating 2012 and still in play 2013 states that it is 2 full National Curriculum levels attainment (at least) between end KS1 to end KS2.

So in fact your school may well be economical with the truth. The report will be published eventually - they're never plain reading - but I suspect you'll be able to gather what the problems are.

The way to examine this progress issue as a parent to is get onto the school dashboard and compare KS1 results to KS2. Now unfortunately you are not comparing KS1 results (when the KS2 children were in KS1 Y2, but the current cohort of KS1 Y2 children vs. the current KS2 Y6 children).


If your school is regularly churning out NC Level 3 Maths/ English pupils at end KS1 and then only achieving NC Level 4 for the majority there is a huge problem and OFSTED are correct that the school has not been doing their job by these children over the last 4 years. And are well within their rights (and given these people are paid with taxpayers money - are required to ensure that that money is being spent effectively) to be hard on this point.


Without knowing which school you go to I can't check this data. But you can: School Dashboard:

2012 performance tables (KS2 data only):

1994 - 2011 performance tables (KS2 data only):

It is also advisable to look through the performance combined Maths/ English at KS2 SATs over a number of years. What is the trajectory? Are scores staying steady? Improving? Going rapidly downhill? Jumping about?

One of the flaws in this system is that the transparent comparison for a cohort of improvement from Y2 to Y6 is not made hugely obvious for parents. The new 'dashboard' however does explain whether low / middle/ high ability pupils made expected progress - and it can be used to gauge how well the school is doing in achieving or surpassing the 'floor target' of 60% of pupils > NC Level 4 in Maths/ English combined. From 2014 the new 'floor target' will be 65%.


SockPinchingMonster Mon 20-May-13 14:25:34

Thanks Tiggy - That response has helped me get my head around things and I agree, I think they have been 'coasting' and enjoying their reputation without working very hard to maintain it. I just hope now that the embarrassment of being downgraded will force them to pull their socks up.

tiggytape Mon 20-May-13 14:37:21

I have just looked up Ofsted 2013 (School Data Dashboard guidance) covering expected progress in KS2 and this is what is says. It was published February 2013:

"Expected progress is a measure of school performance across a key stage. For expected progress to be achieved the pupil must progress through two National Curriculum levels between the end of Key Stage 1 and the end of Key Stage 2. Although schools may use key stage sub-levels, a pupil at any sub-level of Key Stage 2 (2a, 2b or 2c) who reached Level 4 at the end of that key stage would be deemed to have made the expected progress. This is because National Curriculum tests and assessments are used to define whole levels rather than sub-levels."

I definitely know of schools re-inspected since September 2012 who have retained their outstanding grade and their level 3 children do not all get a level 6 in Year 6 - especially not in English. So whilst Ofsted would probably look very favourably upon any school that managed to get 3 full levels of progress across the board, failing to do so would not in itself lead to a school being downgraded in this way.

I wouldn't be so worried about that though because attainment is obviously high - be that down to the school or the children or a combination of both. However the school's response to the report is not good. A point by point rebuttal of everything the inspectors said, alongside the school objecting that they didn't get to wheel out the best staff to perform on the day, is hardly confidence inspiring. Hopefully it is just a knee jerk reaction and they will actually take some points raised on board.

noblegiraffe Mon 20-May-13 14:37:43

Requires Improvement is on the way to being forced to becoming an academy. The more cynical among us would suspect that the increase in schools being found wanting are part of a scheme to convert all schools to academies.

Ofsted not observing the 3 strongest teachers is odd. The school will have provided Ofsted with what it reckons are its strong, middling and weak teachers and Ofsted should be checking those evaluations. If they haven't observed the strongest teachers then they are not doing their job.

DeWe Mon 20-May-13 14:47:16

'Our 3 strongest teachers were not even observed by the inspectors'
I thought at primary level all teachers that were teaching over the time the inspectors were in would be assessed.

Certainly at dc's school (large numbers of forms per year) all teachers were inspected. The inspectors were in school for three days, so if the teacher wasn't teaching in those days they they wouldn't have been.

Elibean Mon 20-May-13 14:56:57

sock, I would ask the school why their three strongest teachers weren't inspected.

If they are part time, that may be it (our inspection was only 2 days). But if their three strongest teachers are only p/t, then there is less outstanding teaching going on in the school, so...!

I haven't heard our SLT say that anything Ofsted said was unfair, and would be concerned if I had. But, I repeat, we may have been lucky with our inspectors.

We can only guess about your particular school, but I would make a stab at it not being black and white. There probably are some points that are unfair, but an awful lot of justification and blithering too - which suggest a) the school haven't processed the feedback before reacting to it and b) panic.

tiggytape Mon 20-May-13 15:01:22

I think justifications from the school along those lines are far worse than saying (what is hopefully true) that they are unhappy with some elements of the report but will be addressing all issues raised and are confident that, within a very short time, any concerns will be rectified.

That would have been enough. The school gets good results. All parents know that. There are some less good aspects. Many parents would have seen those too and taken an overall view that it isn't so bad.

However, when the Head complains that it is unfair their 3 best teachers weren't observed, it just worries parents even more - who are these 3 best teachers, do they teach their children, are the other teachers so bad that the Head blames them for dragging down the inspectors' view of the whole school? Of course this isn't true but nit picking at each finding and then countering each point with a justification doesn't give parents much hope that the (hopefully few) changes needed will be managed well.

Elibean Mon 20-May-13 15:04:56


SmallSchoolPrimaryTeacher Mon 20-May-13 15:17:51

Under the new framework, schools are targeted for children 'making expected progress' (ie 2 levels from KS1 to KS2) and 'exceeding expected progress' (ie 3 levels).
From the Ofsted framework:
Outstanding = Taking account of their different starting points, the proportions of pupils making and exceeding expected progress are high compared with national figures.
Good = Taking account of their different starting points, the proportions of pupils making and exceeding expected progress compare favourably with national figures. Where the proportion making expected progress overall is lower than that found nationally, it is improving over a sustained period.
Schools need to locate the national data (hidden in the RaiseOnline library) and then make comparisons. For example, a school needs to compare the proportion of their children going (in reading, writing and maths) from 2c to 4 (expected) and 2c to 5 (better than expected), 2b to 4 and 2b to 5 etc with the proportion nationally.
I imagine the school in the OP fell down in this area.
Our school only got 'good,' as insufficient of the writers who were 2c at KS1 reached Level 5 (all reached Level 4). In fact, neither of them did, so we got 100% making expected progress and 0% making better than expected for that sub-category.

noblegiraffe Mon 20-May-13 15:42:02

It's very difficult to exceed expected progress if your target is a level 6.

tiggytape Mon 20-May-13 15:58:09

But nobody's target would be a level 6 noble.

Since 2 full levels is the expected rate of progress and 3 is exceeding the expected level, the highest 'expected' level at KS2 is a level 5. Children don't get level 4's in Year 2 therefore none of them are 'expected' to get a level 6 in Year 6. Any that do have exceeded expectation by making at least 3 full levels of progress.

sittinginthesun Mon 20-May-13 16:03:24

Tiggy - the question our Governing Body is wondering is whether a level 3c should be reported as a level 3. Apparently a lot of local school have been reporting as a 2a, because otherwise it is deemed to be a 3b. Any idea whether this is right?

tiggytape Mon 20-May-13 16:15:20

Yes a level 3c is a 3 but, by the same token, a 5c is a 5 so if the child makes the expected amount of progress this will be fairly reflected in the reported figures.

If you mean do other schools 'dumb down' elements of their Year 2 grading in order to demonstrate a much faster rate of progress in KS2 then, the answer is maybe – but there’s not a whole lot of room for this. Some elements of the assessment are open to interpretation but should be levelled so that a standard is agreed. However, it is not uncommon, for example, where infants and juniors are separate for the junior school to quietly despair at some of the children starting supposedly on level 3 who they would not judge as being such (and to speculate cynically that the infant school has nothing to lose by this since they wash their hands of them in Year 2 having made sure their own progress figures are given the benefit of any doubt).

There's lot of other variable that can affect the figures too so if you are asking, are the levels an exact science then the answer is no but the same sort of constraints apply to most schools.

Sticklebug Mon 20-May-13 16:30:17

Sock - We have had a similar experience at DC's school and they blamed the Surrey Ofsted team - according to the school they are the toughest in the country (sounded like a defensive line to me!). Are you in Surrey?

noblegiraffe Mon 20-May-13 16:39:58

Ok, but if you need a level 6 to exceed expectations, given that official level 6 was only introduced last year it will be difficult to get that as the system isn't really geared up for it yet.

sittinginthesun Mon 20-May-13 16:57:49

Thanks Tiggy, I see what you mean. We always report what we genuinely see, but we hear so many stories.

Our problem group isn't actually our higher attainers, it's our SENs and FSM children. They make expected improvement, but we are struggling to get them over the two levels if progress.

Due an Osfted as well...

yanbu123456 Mon 20-May-13 17:04:06

Three levels doesn't make sense. A level 3c is around one year ahead of expectations whereas a level 6 is a good 3 years ahead of 'expectations' isn't it? That sort of accelerated progress must happen occasionally but it surely wouldn't be the norm. The % of children getting level 3 in KS1 is a fair bit lower than L6 in year 6.

SockPinchingMonster Mon 20-May-13 17:32:00

Thanks everyone for your responses. So i guess a school wouldn't necessarily be knocked down from Outstanding to Requires Improvement on this aspect alone but perhaps the school are trying to put this spin on it to distract from the real problems - I just hope for my children's sake that they take on board OFSTED's comments and make changes.

Sticklebug - No not from Surrey, we're in Yorkshire. I think schools tend to slag off OFSTED when it doesn't go in their favour, feels like our school is blaming anyone but themselves.

teacherwith2kids Mon 20-May-13 17:47:50

I recently watched a school - not one I taught in, but one I know well, respond in an absolutely exemplary manner to a negative Ofsted (Good to Special measures).

Absolutely no defensive spin - an initial comment that all in the school, while disappointed with the results, were committed to addressing all the issues raised and to ensure that every child's education was improved. A week by week update on exactly what was happening - which advisors were coming in, staff training, new approaches, all linked back to the post-Ofsted action plan. A hugely pro-active reaching out to those in the local community who were worried - open classrooms (a once a week 'come in and see what your child has been doing' for each class, for example), governors and staff meeting the parish council, all senior staff available all the time to be spoken to by parents, the community invited in to help (e.g. running clubs, tidying the grounds, volunteering in the classroom) etc.

Came out of SMs within a year, to Good with Outstanding features and, more importantly, with growing numbers and the whole community rallying behind them (there had been a gradual loss to other schools).

Defensiveness just sends all the wrong messages.

spanieleyes Mon 20-May-13 18:00:09

The shifting goalposts again!
2 levels progress is expected, therefore only satisfactory ( and satisfactory now "requires improvement" !) To be good you need more than 2 levels progress and to be outstanding you need 3!

StuffezLaYoni Mon 20-May-13 18:00:14

I teach year six in a junior school. We inherit many children from the Infant school on 3b who are in NO way working consistently at that level. The idea of them achieving sixes is ridiculous.
If our SAT scores go the right way, 96% of our cohort will have made their two levels progress, but if it were 3 levels that number would be a fraction of that.
FFS not all children are cut out to be academic geniuses!

cansu Mon 20-May-13 18:20:08

This makes me really cross. This is why Ofsted is so unhelpful. I doubt anything has changed since the last inspection except the goal posts have changed. If you are happy with your dd progress before the inspection and are happy with what you have seen when in school then there is no cause for concern. I think the fact that schools seem to yoyo in and out of these categories shows how subjective and arbitrary the Ofsted judgements are.

tiggytape Mon 20-May-13 18:29:05

cansu - OP says she does agree with some aspects Ofsted have raised (if not the overall grading) in the sense that some things she has seen when in school have caused her to question the original outstanding it had been awarded.

You may be right in saying nothing much has changed between then and no except the school cannot now rely so much on having a very able intake and getting very good SATS to impress Ofsted. So, whilst it may be true nothing has got worse in school at all, that doesn't mean the school was outstanding in the first place in terms of the value it added to a generally very high achieving intake.

NynaevesSister Mon 20-May-13 18:31:41

It is interesting to see the expectations in this thread. A level 4 is just what any child should be able to do at that age. Really educating/stretching a child means a level 5. I can see no reason why all schools shouldn't be close to 100%. Every year. Of course there are good reasons such as SEN, so that 85% or higher might be the case. But overall, with no SEN why aren't all schools at 100%?

StuffezLaYoni Mon 20-May-13 18:37:37

Because children don't all make their progress in a nice, linear way.
Also, there are many, many children who aren't necessarily SEN but due to their upbringing (chaotic, unsupportive, neglectful) who simply aren't able to learn or retain. Poor motor/social skills/limited vocabulary can set children's education back years.
Going from a school in a terrible town to one in a "naice" area this is ever more apparent.

sittinginthesun Mon 20-May-13 19:12:17

Also because many children with SEN are still expected to achieve level 4. Brilliant if they can, but for many this is a real achievement.

girliefriend Mon 20-May-13 19:25:08

Was talking to my dad about this tonight as my brothers school (my brother is a teacher not a pupil!) has been downgraded from outstanding to satisfactory and all the staff were very shocked.

My dad thinks its all political and a way to get more schools to go down the route of academy and also justify what Gove is doing to the curriculum.

Not sure what I think tbh but could see his point.

ipadquietly Mon 20-May-13 19:27:42

'sock, I would ask the school why their three strongest teachers weren't inspected.'

3 of our teachers were out of class for the whole of the inspection on a pre-booked course. 2 of these teachers were SLT.
The short notice makes it too expensive to cancel courses. Ofsted spent more time observing supply teachers and a student than they did full-time members of staff. It was a complete joke.

BabiesAreLikeBuses Mon 20-May-13 19:55:55

3 levels progress is not expected, it's exceptional, we had a few do it last year - although i worry that a level 6 in year 6 makes it impossible to achieve good progress at ks3, just passes the buck and puts pressure on the child... As for keeping kids at a 2a, i haven't heard of that, i have for the past decade dealt with a lot of dubious level 3c kids who were going to struggle to convert to a 5, it requires the maturity that lots of 11 year olds don't have. Yes the infant and junior schools are separate!
Your school is right that data is top of ofsted's agenda, we were told last time we couldn't get above satisfactory because of the 91% who came up with l3 only 75% converted to a 5. Doesn't matter that these results are great for ks2 nationally. It also didn't matter that most lessons were good or outstanding, data was the number one, we've been battling with it ever since.
To make 3 levels progress you'd really have to suck the joy of school out, i became a primary teacher because my primary years were fun, not filled with lessons on how to take tests...

Blissx Mon 20-May-13 20:16:07

Just want to point out the different Ofsted inspectors interpret the criteria in different ways. Therefore, it is not a fair or uniform process...and yes, a school can be downgraded on just one criteria alone. It shouldn't happen, but it does.

AThingInYourLife Mon 20-May-13 20:29:14

This thread is so depressing.

It could be about measuring the levels of anything.

Pages and pages about metrics and targets and levels and sublevels.

How can anybody be happy for their children to be subjected to this philistine bullshit?

StuffezLaYoni Mon 20-May-13 20:50:27

In fairness, AThing, while teachers are acutely aware of this targets/levels bullshit, we do actually care and nurture the children as people, as well. Just, sadly, that doesn't seem to matter too much to the powers that be.

cansu Mon 20-May-13 20:50:51

Two thoughts
1. Children are not robots. Progress doesn't happen at a uniform rate. Children need time to consolidate skills. You can have a child produce level 5 writing in say story writing but be unable to do this in another text type. They may be able to do it when the task is heavily scaffolded or pre taught in terms of planning as a class or worked on over several lessons but not when done in an exam. Basing your assessment of a child based on snapshot testing is superficial and un reliable.
2. We do not expect all our dc to achieve the same number of GCSE and at the same grade. We accept that our children are not all academic and have different capabilities. We seem to be unable to see this in relation to NC levels. Schools are expected to get all Y6 to level 4 and then by virtue of these stupid targets to level 6 by year 8. The expectation is that teaching trumps intelligence. Yes good teaching will move a child on but not to the same extent or to the same level as every other child.

fourlittleangels Mon 20-May-13 20:52:23

I agree Athing and also how can any parent have any confidence that a school is doing things 'right' if the ofsted system is the only official observation we have to go by!?

I want to be pleased that my children school has just been awarded outstanding in all areas, but from what I've read on this thread and others it seems it could be meaningless, luck of the draw with and inspector or a fix for academy status.... Definitely DEPRESSING!!!

clam Mon 20-May-13 21:06:29

"could be" meaningless? No "could" about it.

iPadTypo Mon 20-May-13 21:28:05

If I pm ec someone my school, coils someone give an unbiased view of where it is at? Would be really interested to know as we are due an inspection. I am also forvarious reasons, considering changing schools. But if the ks2 is worth staying for then perhaps we should hold on?

iPadTypo Mon 20-May-13 21:30:07

Apologies for typos!

fourlittleangels Mon 20-May-13 21:35:27

clam but I struggle to believe it can be totally meaningless. Otherwise how is the future generations education monitored and how to we as parents ensure our children get a half decent start.

We can support at home to our best abilities, but we aren't all teacher nor do we know how to support our children to ensure they reach their maximum potential. If the inspections really stood for nothing surely there wouldn't be so much hype over them nor would they still take place!?

There is only so much feel you can get for a school without being in the classrooms yourself!

clam Mon 20-May-13 21:44:06

Ofsted have pretty much decided what category they're going to put a school in before they even arrive on the doorstep. They've see all the stats and they're looking to confirm their thoughts.
In terms of "luck of the draw" that's exactly what it is with regards to their lesson observations. I've known teachers deliver almost identical lessons in front of different inspectors and received a whole range of gradings.

clam Mon 20-May-13 21:46:04

But I don't believe that an Ofsted grading depicts the whole school, no. Too many schools are getting wildly differing gradings from previous inspections at the moment. It's all political. Makes me cross.

tiggytape Mon 20-May-13 21:46:32

But the point is that Ofsted do not require 3 levels of progress over KS2 to award a good or outstanding grade.

OP's school have told parents that this is the only reason they have been downgraded to requiring improvement (the old term for satisfactory) when in fact it is not true. They do not need to get all or even most children making that kind of stellar progress - just good and normal amounts in line with or above expected levels.

And, progress unlike attainment takes account of starting points - not all children can achieve equal grades but they should all be capable of progress even if some starting points are much, much lower than others. From what the OP has said, her school like many others looks very good when judged purely on academic outcomes but when those outcomes are examined in relation to the high ability intake, the school looks less good in terms of the progress it makes. Another school with similar results may be a far better school simply because they get comparable (or even slightly worse SATS outcomes) but start with an intake of much lower ability overall.

PurpleAlert Mon 20-May-13 22:00:38

Haven't read the whole thread but ofsted are looking for" better than expected progress"
Expected progress is two whole levels e.g. 2b- 4b or 3c- 5c etc.

We were told that better than expected might mean one extra sub level. E.g. 2a- 5c. Three whole levels (2b-5b) is fairly unlikely for the majority of pupils.

AThingInYourLife Mon 20-May-13 22:02:01

"In fairness, AThing, while teachers are acutely aware of this targets/levels bullshit, we do actually care and nurture the children as people, as well."

Oh I know that, Stuffez.

It just makes me fucking crazy that clever, creative, resourceful people who are doing an important job they care about are being forced to waste their time on this worse than pointless shit.

How do you tell if a school is good?

Visit the school, talk to the parents.

Are the children happy? Flourishing? Confident? Being encouraged and inspired?

Then it's a good school.

You can't measure the stuff that matters.

You have to make a judgement.

The waste of time, of talent, and of resources involved in this inspection regime makes me want to cry.

clam Mon 20-May-13 22:08:55

"better than expected progress." In bridge terms, they're called 'over-tricks.' grin

teacherwith2kids Mon 20-May-13 22:19:20


I was educated in state primaries before Ofsted, and my siblings in state secondaries in the same period.

I would not wish to go back to a 'non-inspected' regime - one in which a teacher can teach the wrong O-level syllabus for years 'because it was too difficult to teach the right one after it changed to be different from the CSE one' and in which the Romans and Impressionist painting can be taught in every year group in the same primary 'because the teachers like it'.

I agree that there is a balance between holding to account and allowing professionals to do their jobs - but some accountability measures ARE necessary.

If we as parents did not attach such weight to Ofsted results in choosing schools, then the whole process would be less destructive - so every time we choose a 'Good' school because of its grading, or try to advise a poster about getting into an 'Outstanding' local school, we are in fact feeding exactly the same monster as this thread is criticising....

tiggytape Mon 20-May-13 22:25:36

Which parents do you talk to then AThing?
The parents of children in Year 1 who have lovely job share teachers doing a fantastic job and who will get the most experienced Year 2 teacher in September? Or the parents of children with the grumpy, disorganised and totally unapproachable Year 4 teacher who will also get the weaker teacher for Year 5 having had a sucession of supply teachers all through Year 3?

The parents of the child who is a maths genius who thinks it is just fantastic that the school lays on extra classes to stretch him and love the focus on g&t children? Or the parents of the child with dyslexia who are frustrated that after 2 years their child's needs are still not met and who know the failing of the SEN provision more than most?

Ofsted may have faults but parents cannot know the ins and outs of any school just by popping their head round the door and chatting to other parents. And yes a happy school is wonderful but not if the children leave Year 6 without being at the level they need to be for the next stage of their education or at least having been given the chances to get there.

I've had 2 children go through primary and my opinion on even just one school is totally coloured by the teachers each of my children got (they never had the same teacher and it became apparant that each year group had teachers of vastly differing abilities and styles), the class mixes made and the way each of my children's needs were met (both the g&t provision and additional needs aspects). Parents who just had child in either of those year group would never have known how much better / worse things were for those further up / lower down the school. It actually made me realise that parental opinion is only accurate for that teacher in that year group with that class and in relation to the type of child they happen to have.

JoyMachine Mon 20-May-13 22:29:25

I am struggling to understand how children could come out with a Level 6 in English Tests.
In 2012 children could sit level 6 papers in Reading and in Maths, but the Writing Tests aren't compulsory, and the DfE is calculating the overall English Test mark using the Writing TA converted to a point score (Level 3=30, Level 4=40, Level 5=50, Level 6... doesn't exist hmm according to them)

AThingInYourLife Mon 20-May-13 22:31:40

You can have inspections that are not based on tracking meaningless data, the collection of which warps and distorts the curriculum.

This is not what education is about.

teacherwith2kids Mon 20-May-13 22:32:43

I would agree with tiggy.

I have taught children who transferred from a school noted for its 'happy, confident children'.

By Year 3, even the most able child - who should have been WELL above average in all areas - had significant weaknesses in most subjects when they tranbsferred. A fact that had gone unnoticed because ALL of his class had been slipping gradually behind, so he was 'top of the class'...but still falling behind enough to be lower middle of the class in my school in a much, much more challenging area, and severla levels below that expected for his age.

It is genuinely hard to judge a school. It requires a 'helicopter' overall view - and Ofsted, for all its flaws, does try to bring that. The 'high stakes' nature of an Ofsted result, though, is not of Ofsted's making - we make it, as consumers of education, and the government makes it.

teacherwith2kids Mon 20-May-13 22:35:29

So what would you measure? Progress shown by the work in children's books - that is, at all but a very few points in a child's school life (specifically, Reading and Maths in Year 6) what the levels are based on. Teaching and learning - that is observed. The children's demeanor and enthusiasm for larning - that is observed and forms part of the judgement.

admission Mon 20-May-13 23:26:09

Sockpinchingmonster, I have come to this set of posts very late but reading through all your posts this school's response l just screams at you that it is a school that has been coasting along for ages on the back of an outstanding Ofsted. It has been guilty of not keeping up to date with where Ofsted are in terms of how they have been inspecting since September 2012 (and actually before that) and being complacent. They should have known that the progress a pupil was making was as important as the actual level of attainment.

Has the actual report come out yet, as this may be quite illuminating on the overall state of the school? If you want a relatively unbiased view of what may be you need to read into the report then I am happy to look at it and give you my thoughts. If so PM me with the school name and LA. I inspect schools in Wales.

NynaevesSister Tue 21-May-13 05:13:52

I know of three schools where this is the case - near 100% at level 4 and around 50% at level 5. All three with challenging intakes. One in particular is in a ward with high levels of child poverty. Just because a child is from a chaotic background doesn't mean they can't attain just what is considered normal. Level 4 isn't a high bar. A good school can work with these children over 7 years and help them achieve. A look at the dashboard for the school shows no difference or even slightly higher attainment for those on free school meals.

It is not the only school to achieve this. Why set expectations low and blame it on the children and their backgrounds? I say this as the parent of a child who learns very differently indeed. It may seem like a miracle that he could reach level 4 when he gets to year six
But as you say all children develop differently. I am confident that my son will get there as the school are doing everything they can to help him unlock his potential.

I find it sad that in another school they would just accept that not everyone can reach a level 4 and not stretch him enough.

TheSmallPrint Tue 21-May-13 15:55:11

Our school has just had it's Ofsted inspection and come in as Good. It has been Good for a long time but I think that it has vastly improved under the new head and so felt that they were hard done by. When speaking to the head she told me that she thought the result was correct as the grading has been changed quite a lot and now it is very, very hard to get an outstanding. On that basis, I think with our old head we may have been moved down a level.

teacherwith2kids Tue 21-May-13 17:03:29

Nynaeve's sister,

But of course many schools don't have 7 years. Included in a school's results may well be children who have been there only a couple of years or less. Children who have attended 5 or 6 schools in total. Children in care or from families who move around a great deal or who arrive in mid-juniors with no English. Children with significant SEN - a school I have worked in had over 30% of children on the SEN register at any one time, even though the work put in to move children off the register through intervention was amazing. In a small school, 3 or 4 children with statements in a single class can make a big difference to the statistics....

FadedSapphire Tue 21-May-13 17:56:55

I hope Ofsted take such things into account teacher...

teacherwith2kids Tue 21-May-13 18:00:47


IME it did when that school was inspected - because they looked at PROGRESS and not (as Nynaeve's sister has) looked only at absolute final levels. Yes, a percentage of the children didn't get Level 4 BUT the progress that they showed - and the work that was going in to help those children to make that progress - was sufficient for a Good Ofsted grade.

radicalsubstitution Tue 21-May-13 18:26:49

Our 3 strongest teachers were not even observed

This comment really concerns me. For a school to be graded as Outstanding for teaching, observed lessons should be 'no less than good'.

If there is such a difference between the performance of its strongest and weakest teachers that 3 teachers make the difference in Ofsted grading from 1 to 3 then the school should not be rating as Outstanding for teaching in the first place.

The whole '3 levels progress' thing is very dishonest.

Blissx Tue 21-May-13 19:55:41

fourlittleangels, in answer to your question on the previous page, can I get you to consider the following? Australia and Finalnd do not have
Ofsted equivalents and are not inspected and yet they are held up as shining beacons of educational excellence by 'those on high'...

fourlittleangels Wed 22-May-13 11:43:27

Blissx funny you should mention Finland as it is a country we have seriously considered moving to, along with Norway, due to their education system. I think the difference is that their system is so different and outwardly successful therefore there seems to be some faith in the system.

You only have to compare curriculum restraints as a starting point to see how stark the difference is and their way of living and lack of private school, impeccable pre school care etc. Maybe if 'we' looked around we could see what is going 'wrong' rather than just put an ofsted system into place to assess but not a lot else!

beauty67 Sat 15-Jun-13 13:18:09


Sounds like what's happened at my sons school,you're not in Hull by any chance are you?? School in top 20% of schools in country and downgraded from 'Outstanding' to 'Needs improving'.Is there room for improvement in the school?? Yes! that goes without saying for every school but to downgrade from 'Outstanding' to 'needs improving' just leaves me thinking either:There's something going on behind the scenes that us parents don't know about(this wouldn't shock me) OR that Ofsted reports should be taken with a large pinch of salt,they pick up on things that really are quite pathetic sometimes(just as plausible).They put so much pressure on the schools and sometimes unjustly so,who in turn put pressure on the kids to out perform other schools etc.It amuses me to hear parents bragging how G+T their child is because they are a level 5 and their child is boosting the school up in the league tables etc when in fact it's how many levels the child has progressed from entry to sch-end of key stage 1 then to end of key stage 2.Most sec schools base G+T on a level 6 so gonna be a lot of upset parents and kids in Sept.My statemented child was 18-24mths behind on entry to school only getting a 1c end of key stage 1 in Yr2(not even a 1c in Maths)now he's in yr6 he's on level 4b/a's in all subjects up to end of last term...that's as much as 11 sub levels in key stage 2....Now I think that's amazing BUT the thing I care about most is my child's happiness and well being.He is polite,extremely well mannered and an absolute pleasure to be around.I would pay as much attention to an Ofsted report as I would a SAT's result.An Ofsted report can change depending on who you get on the day/s same as a SAT's test can be down to what questions you get on the day.That's my theory :-)

junkfoodaddict Sat 15-Jun-13 20:50:39

OFSTED should not be trusted. They change the criteria every so many years. I have been through FOUR OFSTED inspections and EVERY ONE has been under different criteria. Quite frankly, if OFSTED are having to change what is considered 'good' or 'outstanding' every 3 or 4 years, then the fault doesn't lie with schools, it lies with them because it shows they haven't a friggin' clue about what consitutes a 'good' or 'outstanding' school!!
My school was grade 3, despite the LEA saying it was a 2 and our SEN provision being graded as 1. The leading inspector had NO PRIMARY SCHOOL EXPERIENCE. He ADMITTED that if the inspection came after the SAT results, then the grading would likely to be different. He even ADMITTED that the inpsection was a political one - a move to 'show' that LEAs were not doing their job effectively to support and improve schools so they (OFSTED) could sideline into school improvement services. The new OFSTED framework has been changed to force schools into becoming academies.
But making a 30% jump in children attaining level 4+ at the end of Year 6 within 3 years does not show good progress apparently!

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