Would you be concerned about Ofstead report?

(59 Posts)
2isamagicnumber Fri 30-Aug-13 18:41:54

My understanding of ofstead reports is a bit limited so wondered if anyone can share their thoughts.

The local primary school where my son will start in 2014 has just had a terrible ofstead report. They have gone from grade 1, outstanding, in pretty much all areas to grade 3, requires improvement.

Obviously I am concerned as to the dramatic change. Has anyone sent their child to a school where this has happened?

Smartiepants79 Fri 30-Aug-13 18:47:30

How long since the last report?
One thing to understand is that the criteria for reaching the grades is constantly changing. It may well be that little has actually changed in the school but the way in which they have been inspected/marked has.
It is now extremely difficult to get an outstanding grade.
Also they are quite subjective and reliant on who has done the inspection.
I wouldn't judge solely on the basis of the report. Read it. Then speak to the head/staff. Visit and make your own judgments.

Pizzahutlover Fri 30-Aug-13 18:51:40

Ofsted bench mark has gone up in 2011 so higher expectations from them regarding schools but a school that has gone from outstanding to requires improvement would concern me as thats a big jump

nomorecrumbs Fri 30-Aug-13 18:54:28

Yes, Ofsted have gone bonkers with inspection criteria. What are the KS2 results like? How about value-added scores, if they publish this? What is the atmosphere in the school like? How is staff turnover?

2isamagicnumber Fri 30-Aug-13 19:24:30

Thanks for the replies.

Ofstead last full report was 2008 which judged the school outstanding. In 2011 there was an interim assessment which judged that standards had been maintained.

The latest report from Ofstead was conducted in June this year.

The report mentioned that the standard of teaching was variable across the school. Reception, y5 and y6 were noted as still being good or even outstanding.

Pizzahutlover the dramatic drop is what is concerning me. I can understand that the criteria Ofstead use may change over time but wouldn't have expected it would be that dramatic a change.

Hulababy Fri 30-Aug-13 19:28:07

What are the grades in the 4 key areas?

What are the areas to improve?

Wallison Fri 30-Aug-13 19:32:07

I think you need to read between the lines. Quite often Ofsted will say that something is not being done when actually what they mean is that there is no evidence as to what is being done ie they haven't done their paperwork properly. I don't know about you but I couldn't give a flying fuck if teachers aren't filling in the right forms in the 'right' (according to Ofsted) way as long as they are teaching properly. Likewise, I couldn't give a stuff about attendance although Ofsted put a lot of emphasis on that; I know that I send my son into school every day and what other parents do doesn't matter a damn to me. So, I would look at stuff like: are the children happy and secure in school? Is there a robust anti-bullying policy and are all staff including dinnertime supervisors up to speed with it? What about observed lessons? Were they to a high enough standard? I think those are the main things I would focus on. I wouldn't worry too much about SATS - even a fairly high percentage change from one inspection to another would only mean 5 or 6 pupils getting a lower level compared to the year before in a school with single-form entry.

Pizzahutlover Fri 30-Aug-13 19:41:46

Yes i agree op i would feel the same way as you if i had seen that maybe go visit the school from september onwards they will have open days etc go have a look talk to head and staff and parents that children are going to the school they will be able to tell you about the school. If school has local surestart ask their what people think or wait outside the school and ask. Is this the only school your child can go to have a look at primary schools in the area and look at councils website and see distances offered last year and measure that using google but look at how council measures distance as some use as the crow flies etc so look

PoppyWearer Fri 30-Aug-13 19:52:24

This has happened at a school local to me. As an outsider I assumed it was a blip, but according to friends whose DCs attend the school, there are deeper problems and they are assessing whether or not their DCs stay at the school in question.

Sorry, that doesn't help much, but I guess I'm saying "no smoke without fire" in our local school's case anyway!

2isamagicnumber Fri 30-Aug-13 20:12:17

Sorry forgot to reply Hulababy. Of the four key areas three are requires improvement. These are achievement of pupils, quality of teaching and leadership & management. Only behaviour and safety of pupils was good.

Wallison I would like to think it might be something as simple as not having the correct paperwork in place. However the number of areas the report highlights makes me think that's probably not the case.

The school does or at least did have a very good reputation. I will look in to visiting the school.

Also I will look in to alternative schools though I would hope that the issues ofstead have raised would be addressed by the time my son would start next year.

Wallison Fri 30-Aug-13 20:25:10

Achievement of pupils could come down to just a ropey intake for one year; it happens. It certainly happened to our school. However, even with that I'd expect them to be doing something about it - in our school they introduced intensive support for the pupils who were struggling (kids who had never sat at a table, didn't know how to hold a pencil, Christ, didn't even know what a pencil was etc) and that is ongoing now. So I'd be cautious in that case - fair enough if they've got a strategy, not so good if they haven't.

Quality of teaching I'd be concerned about - you need the lessons to be good. However, I'd speak to the school about it and ask for detail. Ofsted can say that there's (for eg) no differentiation or measuring outcomes or suchlike, when actually teachers might be doing that and not recording it, or even recording it but not in the way that Ofsted wants. That can drag down a school's rating even though the teaching is good.

Leadership and management to my mind is mostly about paperwork. I don't see that schools who have visions and strategies etc are necessarily the best place for pupils, especially at primary level. But that's just my view.

If they're being required to improve, they will be having interim overviews with the education authority rep and those will be being communicated to parents and governors and the governors will be responding. I would ask to see them - it will give you a much clearer idea as to what the problems actually are - if it's just people not filling in forms properly or if there really are endemic problems with the school.

admission Fri 30-Aug-13 20:33:42

You do really need to know the school and what is going on in the school. There are plenty of examples of schools previously considered outstanding going to good or requires improvement (the old satisfactory). In some cases it is because of changes to the inspection regime and the greater emphasis on results. In some cases it is about the school having got sloppy and believing its own voice that they are outstanding.
The reality is that the school is not in a category, so the inspection team think that the current senior leadership team are more than capable of sorting out the issues. It could well be that in twelve months time the school will be considered good having been given the kick in the pants it possibly deserved, so maybe not so much to worry about. The key issue is the variable teaching and what they do about it. If it is about say different marking schemes being used in different classes in the school, that is easily solved. If it is about some teaching being good and some not so good, then that could be more of a longer term issue to resolve.

thismousebites Fri 30-Aug-13 20:33:49

I wouldn't be too concerned about this if I were you.
I relied heavily in ofsted report for DS1 as it was deemed outstanding.
However he's not even started there yet and we've had no end if problems already. He didn't even get an induction day.
Total lack if communication and having to chase them up on every detail. They haven't even sorted out the school uniforms yet which have benn paid for weeks ago......they start back next week so it's all a bit crap.
Ofsted not necessarily accurate in my opinion.

ChimneyDeep Fri 30-Aug-13 20:37:50

Are you in Warks, op?

teacherwith2kids Fri 30-Aug-13 20:46:07

I'd go a little against the grain here and say that the new rating is probably deserved.

One of the ways in which Ofsted has tightened up is in the way they look at progress within schools. Previously, it was possible (not easy, but possible) to get 'outstanding' based on results that were good because the intake was good.

Many schools that were rated well years ago - and 5 years ago is a VERY long time in education - have not driven for improvement and 'kept up the pace' in the way that lower-rated and more frequently inspected schools have. The fact that the 'oustanding' grade may anyway have been a feature of the quality of the intake may exacerbate that, as treachers will have thought that 'what we are already doing is outstanding, we don't need to do any more'.

A 'requires improvement' today = exactly what would have got a 'Good' up till a couple of years today (the criteria for RI are almost word for word identical to the old ones for Good, in fact in some areas togher). So in reality the school has 'slipped' one notch - it just looks like two because the ladder has been shifted up in the meantime IYSWIM.

I would be more worried about teaching being rated as 3 AND leadership and management the same, because it indicates that the inspector(s) weren't that convinced about whether the current leadership team has the oomph to drive the necessary improvement - and the school is caught a little between two stoold because if they had been put in Special Measures they would have got much more help to improve.

Keep a sharp eye out for signs of activity and improvement. Indication of a structured process of improvement = great, they'll get through this. Efforts to deflect blame, to indicate that the report is unfair etc = run for the hills unless significant leadership changes occur.

Pizzahutlover Fri 30-Aug-13 20:50:44

I do agree thismousebites ofsted are not accurate went to see a nursery which was sopposely got outstanding for parent communication sopposely spoke to parents well went and was insulted and hardly no kids were at the nursery given dirty looks of the kids that were their they were left unattended and this was a GOOD NURSERY

2isamagicnumber Fri 30-Aug-13 20:54:39

Hi chimneydeep, no I'm in Yorkshire.

greensmoothiegoddess Fri 30-Aug-13 21:11:46

Oh god - Ofsted is the government's puppet. It's all politically charged. They have an agenda and that seems to be all about academising schools.

Have been through many an Ofsted. What would have been Good is now Requires Improvement. Have recently seen them do hatchet jobs at close quarters.

Parents - please treat them with the suspicion and contempt they deserve.

lljkk Fri 30-Aug-13 21:15:55

I don't much rate Ofsted reports. I'd go with collective parent wisdom & personal experience instead.

SockPinchingMonster Fri 30-Aug-13 21:23:32

OP - are you in West Yorkshire? The school my 5 year old twins attend has recently been downgraded from Outstanding to Requiring Improvement. It came as a bit of a shock as the school had an excellent reputation locally, although I must admit that when my children started last year I did wonder why they were outstanding as it didn't feel like an outstanding school to me.
I think the school was coasting on its reputation to be honest, but now they've had a massive shock and I think this is a good thing as they are frantically trying to improve in all areas which can only be a good thing for my kids. Our school also were marked as requiring improvement in all areas you mentioned and we're in Yorkshire too.

2isamagicnumber Fri 30-Aug-13 21:36:25

Need to have a good read through the replies.

Sockpinchingmonster, no I'm in South Yorkshire.

SockPinchingMonster Fri 30-Aug-13 21:41:08

Ahh not the same school then, but for what it's worth quite a few outstanding schools in our local area have been inspected recently and none of the ones I know of have retained their outstanding status. 2 schools with excellent reputations have been downgraded to Good, and of course ours to Requiring Improvement. So it shows that Ofsted have raised the bar quite a bit.

Hulababy Fri 30-Aug-13 22:15:22

Im in South Yorkshire - Sheffield. If in sheffield feel free to pm me and I'll see if I can shed further light. I work in primary ed. infants in sheffield.

tiggytape Fri 30-Aug-13 22:21:53

Collective wisdom is great as long as you know other parents with children like yours of a similar age who will be honest with you and who know a bit about what is going on in the school generally not just their own year group - and many parents just don't have that feedback to draw on especially for a first child.

The opinion of those with older children in the school may have limits as they've possibly had different teachers and their early experiences are years out of date.
The opinion of the mum of an super confident maths genius may not tell you what the school will be like for a quiet, artistic child.
The views of parents who had the favourite reception teacher may differ vastly from those who had the one who left mid term and then a string of supply teachers. Unless you live in an area where everyone knows the local school and everyone's child goes there (not the case in many towns and citites), it is really hard to form any view from the outside.

Ofsted has limits and the grading is now harsher but on the plus side this has exposed some schools who previously relied on an easy intake to get high SATS scores and Ofsted praise.
A school that was excellent in 2008 may have changed and gone downhill or it may always have been a school that took children above the national average and added very little value. The text of the Ofsted report more than the grades can help explain areas of concern and reasons for the grade. It should be the case that improvements will be made fairly rapidly though so even if you decided the Ofsted is accurate, it isn't static. Things can and do turn around very rapidly.

teacherwith2kids Fri 30-Aug-13 22:24:21

The problem with collective parental wisdom / local reputation is that it tends to be somewhat out of date - and does favour 'naice' schools in 'naice' areas (which may well get decent results without actually DOING very much).

In many cases, the very best schools in terms of children's learning are those that are straining every sinew in not-so-naice areas to ensure that every child makes great progress ... these are often 'Good' not 'Outstanding' schools, though, for a variety of reasons i won't bother to go into here (though this is changing).

SPM, I think your experience is fairly typical. Interestingly, my DD's school has gone the other way - up to outstanding from Good. It has typically not been as 'well regarded by parents / the local community' as the school down the road, for reasons ranging from the fact that they don't wear ties and turn a blind eye to stripy socks to the fact that umpteen years ago it was an all-through 3 - 16 school with the senior part being a secondary modern whereas the other school was a primary known for sending kids to the grammar. As I think that changed in the 1970s, you will understand how slowly 'the general public view' can change...

teacherwith2kids Fri 30-Aug-13 22:27:44

Also, and this may sound really obvious, but parents generally only have experience of the school that their children go to. They are not in a position to compare, and often feel that because they choose to send their children there, they should defend their choice IYSWIM. Or they may grumble because of an issue affecting their child, with no knowledge of whether such a problem would be better or worse dealt with in another school.

Whatever Ofsted's faults - and it can be used politically, especially for secondaries in LEAs with few academies - haveing an external view on a school IS useful.

ihearsounds Fri 30-Aug-13 22:29:15

Oh I pay little attention to Ofsted. The school I work in is outstanding. Has been for many years. It's a joke. I wouldn't trust an inspector as far as I could fling them. Even less so because our head is constantly telling us about the conversations with various ofsted people who are high up. Maybe I am just very sceptical because of this. Never mind that our head is constantly preaching to us what to say when we get an inspection. How to have the class laid out, springing surprise visits on us from various people as practice. This is just a part of the kiss arse that is involved in getting outstanding.

Then there's even more kiss arsing to come that will include the pta. Come September if the pta are as much use a chocolate teapot this will reflect on the school, but in schools where the pta is excellent and teaching/management/support is shite they will grade slighter higher because of the pta... It's a sham.

Then there's the schools that were excellent, suddenly not so great, now an academy because yea this fixes the issue, and surprise, surprise the academies are also failing.

Can you tell. I am a massive fan of the ofsted grin

teacherwith2kids Fri 30-Aug-13 22:35:03


So in the perfect world WITHOUT Ofsted (and believe you me i don't love it either), how is the average parent on the street, with no specific knowledge of education, to gain any idea of how their school is doing in comparison to others, not just in terms of results (which are primarily a function of intake and may tell you very little about what the school actually does) but also wrt the teaching, the leadership, safety, behaviour etc?

'Gut feel' is, of course, important. But a school can feel very lovely indeed and teach its children almost nothing.

BlackMogul Fri 30-Aug-13 22:38:51

I am going against the anti ofsted rhetoric here too! A parent visiting a school can never pick up what experienced Ofsted inspectors are seeing. The paperwork is usually evidence that children are making progress and that teaching is based on assessment evidence gathered by the teachers. If you read a current Outstanding report for another school you will see where yours is deficient. The question is - can they improve? Ofsted clearly thinks this is a problem. The school should publish its improvement plan and you can see how they intend to improve. Lots of teachers still dislike Ofsted but for the sake of our children's education, it is important that all teachers are good or outstanding and it is up to Headteachers and Governors to ensure this is the case. This report will have nothing to do with lack of paperwork in the trivial sense. It will probably be lack of meaningful assessment of children's work and use of that data to plan lessons. It could also be classroom management or poorly paced and planned lessons. This can seriously stop clever children making the most of their time at school. You will never be able to suss this out by a parental visit. Also poor attendance is usually a feature of an under performing school. Parents do not support it and children do not attend regularly enough. If children miss lots of school, they under achieve. Therefore they do not make sufficient progress and so Ofsted are not impressed!

teacherwith2kids Fri 30-Aug-13 22:42:32

But, tbh, I see no particular distinction between 'Good' and 'Outstanding' - as in, I would have absolutely no hesitation in sending a child to a Good school and it would depend on the individual school as to whether I would pick / recommend a good or outstanding one. Some Outstanding schools are so obsessed by their grade that nothing else seems to matter, least of all the children - others are almost accidentally outstanding because they have been focusing on to get the best out of their children.

ihearsounds Fri 30-Aug-13 23:05:56

How did parents assess schools prior to 1992?

teacherwith2kids Sat 31-Aug-13 08:44:06

As HMI only reported to the Secretary of State, not publicly, I presume (I wasn't a parent at that point) that the choice was made
- On nearest school
- On local reputation where a choice was available
- On results

Do you think that parents made better school choices before Ofsted was available - as in, did all parents, in all kinds of areas, have the information that they needed to choose the school that would give their children the best education? Do you think that parents had the information that they needed to differentiate between schools with poorer results who were doing brilliantly from low base points, and those who had good results only because of a very good intake?

Certainly as a pupil who attended multiple primaries in pre-Ofsted days, the quality and expectations of pupils in schools was wildly variable. As I moved between schools, I was moved up years when it transpired I had already done all the work planned for my 'normal' year - and moved down again when moving to another school with different expectations....

lljkk Sat 31-Aug-13 10:09:48

DC primary was Satisfactory for 7 yrs before gaining a Good rating few months back.
I can't see any difference in DC experience at the primary before & after.
DD is about to attend an Outstanding High sch while DS will attend a "Good" HS. I CAN see differences, BUT my gut feeling is that most of them have to do with calibre of intake. Will update in a yr when I know better.

nennypops Sat 31-Aug-13 13:47:13

I would rather look at results and what other parents say. My neighbour's daughter worked as a support teacher at a local school. When Ofsted came, she had to step in to take over a class whose teacher was off sick. She found that the other teacher's marking and lesson plans weren't up to date and had to work past midnight every day over the preceding weekend to sort all that out. The school ended up with a "Good" rating, including a finding that behaviour was good: however, it really isn't.

Another friend who is responsible for art in her school told me about a long discussion with an Ofsted inspector about why she said that art was improving and developing. She cited lots of evidence in terms of quality and variety of artwork, improved displays, increased take-up of art club etc, but he kept asking "How do you know?" till she had a bad headache. When she discussed it afterwards with her headteacher, she was told that what the inspector wanted was a mark book with a row of increasing marks so that he could tick the box marked "Evidence" and it really didn't matter if she made the marks up.

teacherwith2kids Sat 31-Aug-13 14:58:07


But results can be (largely) a function of intake - hence why sorting the 'league tables' by absolute scores and by added value give COMPLTELY different orders. And other parents only have knowledge of their own school for their own child and are unlikely to be wholly objective about an institution that they have chosen to send their children to (I mean, I have wholly different views of THE SAME school for 2 different children only 2 years apart and roughly similar in ability ... how different can another parent's view be of a school for their child, of a different age and possibly quite different from mine, also coloured by the parent's own view on what is important in education...

I know that Ofsted isn't perfect. In some cases, it is used for political ends. Some inspectors have insufficient knowledge or experience of the type of institution that they are inspecting (in most cases they work in teams to try to balance out this issue). Some schools play games, because they believe that they know what Ofsted is looking for (these games are not always successful).

However, having a report on a school, against specific benchmarks, from a team of people who have visited many other schools, is of value in the decision making process. Not the only thing of value, but of value.

Certainly of much MORE value than context-free results data - is a school good because its results are good IF the nature of its intake is such that in fact the results should be excellent (but aren't)? Is it poor because of lower results, despite the fact that over 50% of its children start school way below expected level for their age? Are good results obtained through endless rote learning to the test, or are lessons interesting and engaging (OK, Ofsted only view a snapshot - but they also ask pupls whether this is what lessons are typically like, and pounce when there is a disparity)? That's what I read an Ofsted report for - the text, the chat, the non-numerical information, the context that tells you about progress, which is what a good school should be about.

To take a concrete example, our local grammar (taking children in at high Level 5s, at minimum, at the beginning of Y7) gets 100% A* to C including English and Maths at GCSE. A comprehensive I know of, in a very challenging area, gets 45% A* to C including English and Maths ... but that is from a starting point where well over 50% of pupils arrive with Level 3s or below in English and Maths. Which is the better school? Where do the children make better progress?

We've had a couple of schools locally which were outstanding and have had recent satisfactory/requires improvement ratings. Both have had problems with getting/keeping headteachers, but now have recruited heads who look like they will stay and sort the schools out. My DD has 2 years until she starts school. Having given this a lot of though, I actually think this could be a positive for DD who is due to start school in 2 years. Instead of joining a school that is coasting gradually downwards, resting on its laurels from the 5 year old outstanding grading, she will be joining a school on the up.

2isamagicnumber Sat 31-Aug-13 23:43:47

Thanks for everyone's opinions. I don't currently know any parents with children at the school so can't gauge their opinions.

Trying to think positively part of me agrees with breatheslowly. At least my son is not due to start until next year so it does give time for the issues to be addressed.

I have also heard that ofstead will be back at the school in February.

I didn't know anyone with children at our local school, but I met a parent in the playground who was able to fill me in on one of the schools. If bumping into someone to ask doesn't work then try MN local boards.

junkfoodaddict Sun 01-Sep-13 07:52:10

I do not take OFSTED reports into account when choosing a school. My school was graded 3 because 2 temporary teachers and 1 supply teachers were graded 3 in their teaching and a 21% increase in 2 years wasn't seen as 'good enough'. The inspector admitted the inspection was political and that we were never going to get a grade 2 because the inspection was done in SATs week and weeks before the results were known. He knew that we were on target to get good results but he seemed fixated on thse 3 teachers. Nevertheless, our results came (87.9% in reading and writing and 81% in maths), our writing was externally moderated TWICE, we had our visit from our monitoring inspector who was 'shocked' at our grading and said we had achieved our targets for October already and to 'give her a ring' if we needed amy help or advice!?!?

On the otherhand, my child's local schools (all 3) are graded as Outstanding (grade 1) and I have doubts as to whether I want my child going to 2 of them because they are known to be pushy with the academics, less favourable with the SEN kids and several parents of children with SEN have been 'forced out'. Not an Outstanding school in my view!

exoticfruits Sun 01-Sep-13 08:07:24

I would visit the school on a normal working day- make sure you see everything and go with a list of questions and see whether you get satisfactory replies.
I am sceptical about Ofsted- you can do very well with perfect paperwork. I know a Head who got outstanding for leadership and yet is a nightmare to work for and not too good with children but is a whizz at the paperwork!

If the school in a category then it will have another visit in about a year to check on improvements are being made.

For example my dc school previous visit was 'good'. The last Ofsted visit (under old scheme) was put into 'require improvement.' having sat through a Governor meeting the inspector was very bias towards the school. Within 6 months we had an interim visit and the inspector would have taken us out of category if he could. The most recent inspection we are now 'Good with outstanding features'.

There have not been any major changes to teaching with in the school but the inspector took notice of the children backgrounds (deprived area, lots known to various agencies) and the progress the children are making.

One of my children went to an 'outstanding' school for nursery provision and there was no way she would have gone to the school as it was the most unwelcoming/friendly place. Every told me not to send her to the school she is at. But atmosphere within the school is very welcoming and friendly.

So no I wouldn't take an Ofsted report as the be all and end all of information about the school.

curlew Sun 01-Sep-13 09:07:40

It always amuses me when people dismiss the findings of 3 professional people who have spent two days in a school, watched lessons across the year group, read parental questionnaires, looked at all the paperwork and talked to the Head in depth, but are happy with listening to a parent they met in the playground who filled them on all the local schools......

Curlew - in my case a parent in the playground was able to put the Ofsted report in context in terms of school leadership and provide an update on the school leadership in the year that has elapse since the report. That isn't dismissing the Ofsted report, just recognising that the report is a snapshot of that particular time and that the report is, understandably, unable to explain the personal circumstances of the HT.

Similarly I knew from friends that the other school that has recently been downgraded was certainly not an outstanding school for the whole of the 5 years between the outstanding report and the satisfactory one.

exoticfruits Sun 01-Sep-13 10:05:22

I wouldn't dismiss it on the parent in the playground! I would treat it with a certain amount of scepticism and see for myself. I haven't been too impressed by some of the 'professional' people who have spent a mere 2days in the school.

tiggytape Sun 01-Sep-13 10:15:39

junkfood - it is a good thing surely that great results don't necessarily equal a great Ofsted grade? We are in an area where probably 30-50% of all pupils are privately tutored for grammar school exams for anything upto 2 years. These children get fantastic SATS results (well they would) but that's nothing to do with the schools. Sometimes in fact they achieve well despite the school.
The same applies to easy catchments. Some schools will have exceptionally small, affluent catchment areas with heavily invested parents, excellent support, children who start school able to read etc. These children will achieve well just from being at such a strong starting point. If the school adds nothing to their progress then it is not a good school despite a string of grade 4 and 5 SATS in year 6.

Similarly, I have seen several complaints that Ofsted came in the first / last weeks of term or assessed supply teachers who don't count so it is all unfair.
But the reality is with 6 half terms a year, schools should be steadily paced. There shouldn't be 6 gentle introductions and 6 long wind down periods where little is done or everythign is disorganised.
Ditto supply teachers - on the basis that they have been employed to teach whole classes, they should be good at their job. Somebody's children will be taught by them and the fact they are only temporary doesn't make it O.K for them to be less good than the other teachers who weren't assessed.
If 3 staff are not good in a normal sized primary school then this is a fairly sizeable problem for at least 90 children. It doesn’t matter that they’re only passing through and Ofsted are right to highlight this.

Why would you take what 3 professional who look at reports that do not take into account the background of the children and only take into account the 'national average child' and how they compare. And not the parents whose child go to the school and they see how it is on a daily basis.

curlew Sun 01-Sep-13 10:57:38

"Why would you take what 3 professional who look at reports that do not take into account the background of the children and only take into account the 'national average child' and how they compare."

That's not what they do. The stats are much more complicated than that.

tiggytape Sun 01-Sep-13 11:00:36

One of my children has been all the way through primary and the other is still at primary. My experience for each and my perception of the school for each is different because each child had different teachers (some vastly better than others), different personality traits, different strengths and different needs.

Some of the other parents over the years have raved about the school in a way I have not quite understood - really gushed about it. Others have detested it so much they have left. I am not in the classrooms during lessons and I haven't sent them to 5 other schools to compare and see if they would have got on better off there.

I am a longstanding parent involved with the school for nearly a decade but really my opinion is still based on very limited experiences of my own children's personality and ability types with nothing else to compare it to.

Ofsted do take into account a child's background and starting point. More now than ever in fact which is why schools with easy intakes who've rested on their laurels a bit are finding the new regime much harsher. Ofsted of course also have the ability to personally witness lessons in a way most parents don't after Year 2 (when parent helpers tail off) and compare them to other schools in a way most parents can never personally do since many children don't change schools once let alone numerous times.

Hulababy Sun 01-Sep-13 11:20:49

Know of school in question and have asked friend who's child has just left y6 and was there all way through. Will reply via PM later but for some reason not letting me via phone.

Safe to say though that her and her son's experience there was all very positive. They've just got very good y6 results and all feels v good. They def still recommend the school. Think downgrading in ofsted was a surprise.

Hulababy Sun 01-Sep-13 11:30:30

By the way the parent I know with a child at this school is also a primary school teacher herself. She's done a fair bit of supply over the past years too so has seen and worked in a number of schools in the same area. Likewise I work in an infant school not too far away and have friends with children in local schools as well.

tiggytape Sun 01-Sep-13 11:44:17

Hulababy - I am not disagreeing with your professional opinion or friend's opinion of the school at all and such an opinion is great to have.
I was more pointing out the advantage Ofsted brings giving a broader view. A parent can know what to look for and be happy with their own child's exeperience and yet still not know the current ins and outs of every year group.
For example if your friend's child has just left Year 6 she may or may not be up to date with whether Reception and Early Years experiences are as good now as they were when her son was in them 4 or 5 years ago - that personal part of her experience could be several years out of date.

I am not saying parental opinion is worthless, especially where the parents have professional experience of schools, just that it can be hard for even the most involved parent to have a broad and up to date experience of every teacher in every year group covering every additional need and type of child.
Parental opinion is great for judging many aspects of a school (and Ofsted in fact canvas parental opinion too) but Ofsted has a role to play for those parents who don't have friends 'in the know', for those who haven't worked in schools and can compare or know what to look for and and for those who want to know how a school handles particular things that are important to them that may not be relevant to others they speak to eg gifted and talented, additional needs etc.

Hulababy Sun 01-Sep-13 15:39:52

Yes I understand that. I guess those some parents do have a clearer insight into how individual schools work though ESP those with children in different year groups, or friends using the school in diff years, an obviously working in re same sector locally will always help. Ofsted is definitely not all bad -my own school recently went up from 3 to 2 with lots of outstanding features and it was thoroughly justified - but they are limited. There really is not the time for inspectors to see everything and is very hard to make clear accurate judgements based on 20 min on a classroom midway through a topic or project ESP in terms of how much very single child is making progress. That really needs far longer periods of observation and taken over a longer time period such as weeks. But reality is ofsted are in for a couple of days or so, see fragments of lessons and dot really see the full picture. Therefore they are limited in what they are judging on.

And you know - the inspectors vary loads too. Sometimes you can have a really great team, others can be dreadful. Have experienced both and the latter means no matter what you do your doomed.

teacherwith2kids Sun 01-Sep-13 15:47:32


It of course depends on the size of the school - when a small school is inspected, because there are fewer classes then inspectors do see full lessons, often several by the same teacher. I was lucky (got away with most of 1 lesson) but one of my colleagues was observed for 4 hours in total over 2 days!

Would entirely agree that it does depend on the team / the individual inspector, though. I do know of one school inspected where the staff described the lead inspector as 'apparently insane'!

teacherwith2kids Sun 01-Sep-13 15:51:13

(Spat in the head's face, screamed at staff, forgot things from one moment to another, demanded things they already had and had a meltdown when told that, just shouting louder and louder that they needed it and if it wasn't provided the school would fail..... )

teacherwith2kids Sun 01-Sep-13 16:00:00

For all those reasons, I would not advise Ofsted as your ONLY source of information about a school.

Just that completely ignoring it, in favour of even less well-founded information, seems like overkill! It's from putting together scraps of information - Ofsted, league table sorted by value add (not by absolute results), any truly knowledgeable parents, an in-depth personal visit etc - that the best possible picture can be obtained.

And even then, you might choose the 'best school' at a single point in time, and it might be the year that the Reception teacher falls ill, the head leaves, half the SLT retires and there may be a sudden requirement to increase the size of the school by half (or even, in the micro environment of the classroom, a particularly disruptive pupil might affect your particular child's learning). Schools don't stay static, they are evolving communities

junkfoodaddict Sun 01-Sep-13 16:09:50

Curlew - Though parents have not witnessed lessons, they certainly have more contact with a school than an OFSTED inspector. Lessons are inspected for only 20 minutes and in that time a teacher's ability to teach, children's ability to learn, achieve and their overall attainment is judged.
The inspector who came into my lesson (judged good with some outstanding features) was apparently able to tell me that my children's attainment was good, they achieved above expectations and my teaching was described as good. Yes, she gave me some pointers to make it outstanding (it had to do with my TA, but it all depended on whether the TA did as I asked - she didn't!). As it turned out, I made a huge error on the reading material and the inspector didn't even see it yet she felt qualified to commend me for the different ways in which I presented the reading and the content of it!!! On another OFSTED inspection, the team presented their findings about a Y3 class when it was a Y4 class.
That is why I cannot take an OFTSED report seriously. If ours are flawed, how many more are flawed?

12345Floris Thu 05-Sep-13 17:35:21

Ignore it. When I applied for my son's Reception place his school had been Outstanding since 2008... but they only graded it again in 2013 and it went 'down' to Good. Report mentions unusual transience of teachers and that may have affected the standards. But as 4 out of 6 teachers left, on closer research, you discover the reasons were plausible ones - pregnancy, moving abroad, career ambition, etc.

It's my nearest school and having looked around the place the Ofsted grade is of no interest to me. I try to remember that I went to a Catholic primary on (what was then) a Watford sink estate, and my partner ditto equivalent in his town, yet we have both gone through the education system fine.

Tanith Thu 05-Sep-13 18:15:04

If it helps at all, "Requires Improvement" used to be "Satisfactory".

There are several things that have happened since the school's last inspection. We have a new Government and Education minister; Ofsted have been privatised and have a new, much more politically active head; the criteria for Outstanding has been made much tougher; staff and schools are demoralised to the extent that their unions are organising a strike later this year.

Lots of schools and Early Years settings are being downgraded quite dramatically.

Read the report, visit the school and see how you feel yourself about how they do things and what is said. The Ofsted report is just a fraction of the input that will inform your choice: don't let it assume more importance than it deserves.

CaterpillarCara Thu 05-Sep-13 18:57:42

This is the best answer: "I would not advise Ofsted as your ONLY source of information about a school. Just that completely ignoring it, in favour of even less well-founded information, seems like overkill! It's from putting together scraps of information - Ofsted, league table sorted by value add (not by absolute results), any truly knowledgeable parents, an in-depth personal visit etc - that the best possible picture can be obtained."

A few years back, my children were at a school which got an unexpectedly low Ofsted grade. There were several public meetings about what they were doing about it. Keep an eye on their website, if they are holding something go along and listen, see what you think.

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