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Is an OFSTED report always a true reflection of a school?

(15 Posts)
SparklyRedShoes Tue 25-Sep-12 14:06:34

We've been considering a particular school for DS. A couple of his cousins go there and his Uncle has nothing but good to say about it. We met DS would-be Head of Year and I was quite impressed by how well she seemed to know her students. So we decided to attend an open day recently and were very impressed by the students we met. Several parents we talked to again had nothing but good to say. It specialises in performing arts and again, we were impressed by the music facilities etc. Apparently they have performed as far afield as Russia etc etc. They link with a school certified as outstanding.

However while we got this bells ringing angels singing presentation, the ofsted report gives an overall 'satisfactory' rating. I can't reconcile what I see and hear with what I've read in the pretty dire OFSTED.

Consequently I'm torn about whether or not to accept a place there.

Is OFSTED always a true reflection of a schools standard? What determines whether a school receives a 1,2,3 or 4 overall rating? I'd particularly like to hear form teachers.

gymboywalton Tue 25-Sep-12 14:07:20

no

go by your instinct and what other parents say about the school

DogsCock Tue 25-Sep-12 14:07:58

I would look at an ofsted report way before looking at the league tables.

In fact, I would totally ignore the league tables and firstly go by word of mouth, then the Ofsted report.

Redbindy Tue 25-Sep-12 14:11:35

What is wrong with satisfactory?

SparklyRedShoes Tue 25-Sep-12 14:27:11

That's quite an emphatic response gymboywalton why are you so sure?

Redbindy judging by the OFSTED they've barely scraped satisfactory. Most of the report gives 3 for virtually every criteria of assessment. Apparently not enough passes at GCSE in maths, english, science. Yet the same report says the school gives excellent pastoral care and the amount of children gaining 5 GCSEs A* to C is above 50%.

I obviously want DD to be happy, but also want an environment where she can thrive academically too. Satisfactory isn't necessarily good enough.

DogsCock Tue 25-Sep-12 14:41:56

5 a* to c could mean anything. i.e non academic core subjects, you need one which includes maths and english, then find out how much of that is foundation level. i,e the school ensuring the child gets C grade rather than ensuring the child does the level of gcse to which they can attain the highest grade.

tiggytape Tue 25-Sep-12 14:50:52

How old if the Ofsted report? They can go out of date very quickly especially if staff or the Head have changed since then.

Some people seem to hate Ofsted with a passion to the point of not simply ignoring their findings but assuming the polar opposite of anything they say must be true. However, I think there is a lot to be said for Ofsted as long as you bear in mind the limitations associated with their reports (a snap shot view and quickly out of date and a tendency to focus on things that many parents simply don’t care about – admin box ticking for example).

Word of mouth is great but different people experience the same school totally differently. The parents of a gifted maths students may love a school that nurtures clever children and focuses heavily on numeracy whereas the parents of a child with dyslexia need may think the school is horrendous because its offers no support at all.
A child who has been in the top groups from day 1 may think behaviour and discipline is fine whereas Ofsted inspectors may witness something very different when looking at teaching in the lower sets. Parents and children only know about their experiences whereas Ofsted get to have a good nosey at children and staff in all year groups and all abilities.

I don’t think you should base your whole decision on an Ofsted report but if the inspectors do mention particular failings in areas that would bother you, it seems sensible to check if those issues have improved or been addressed.

teacherwith2kids Tue 25-Sep-12 14:53:24

Sparkly,

Key question: What is the percentage getting A* to C GCSE only, including English and Maths? 40% on this measure was the Government 'floor' target for all schools this summer. If the 50% you quote was not the figure including English and Maths, then my guess would be that the key 'with English and Maths' figure would be perilously close to the floor level.

That said, in some schools, gaining 40% is BRILLIANT, given the starting points of the pupils. What is the catchment like?

I would say that no Ofsted report gives a full and true picture of a school - in particular no single-word Ofsted grading. How old is the report? If it was a satisfactory from 2011 or earlier, then that school would now be rated as Notice to Improve or Special Measures, because what you need to show to get each grade has gone up one notch (descriptors for 'Good', for example, are now what used to be the descriptors for 'Outstanding' until the end oif last year). Alternatively, if it is an older report, there may have been new developments that have improved it massivley - speak to the school to find out how they may be addressing the issues identified.

What you report about the text of the report does concern me though - have you looked at earlier reports? Has it always been a 'Satisfactory' school? Or has it had a single poor inspection? (One of our local schools had an unexpected Satisfactory in the inspection before last - it has now received a Good, in line with previous inspections. Another dropped from Outstanding to Satisfactory in an inspection against the 2012 criteria. There is a lot of volatility at the moment.)

SparklyRedShoes Tue 25-Sep-12 15:31:01

Thanks for your insightful comments. I'm pretty sure the report is 2011. But I'll go and have another check; I'll also see if I can find out how many of the GCSEs in English Maths Science are foundation level. And yes you're right about different parents seeing things differently.

Hullygully Tue 25-Sep-12 15:32:09

no

pointythings Tue 25-Sep-12 20:05:37

Well, the primary both my DDs went to (DD2 is still there) was rated 'satisfactory' until the year DD1 left to go to middle school in 2010. And it was always a very, very good school - great at supporting both the very able and those in need of more support, amazing pastoral care and behaviour.

They finally got Good with Outstanding features in 2010 and I wondered what the heck took OFSTED so long - I hadn't seen any changes. So I actually don't rate OFSTED very much at all.

Ferrybridge Tue 25-Sep-12 20:27:24

I think the comments usually give a fair reflection. The grades are too related to the intake of the school IMO . e.g a school can only get "good" for teaching if SATS are at least the national average. A school in a poor area may be doing brilliantly to get just below average results.

bradbourne Wed 26-Sep-12 10:19:22

Have a look at the performance tables and compare with other schools in your area. You can see how well high, middle and low ability pupils fare as well as average GCSE points scores, number of GCSEs sat, progress from KS3 to KS4, value added stats and so on.

www.education.gov.uk/schools/performance/index.html

Elibean Wed 26-Sep-12 11:46:17

No, I don't think so, sadly.

SATS certainly don't - if there are a high level of EAL students, or ESN students, in one particular year group for example.

I would certainly pay attention to an OFSTED report, but not in isolation. Especially if arts/music, ethos, pastoral care etc matter a lot to you.

Itsjustafleshwound Wed 26-Sep-12 11:56:28

I think it is a good starting point, but also remember that the OFSTED report is just a snap shot of ther school and governers/ inspectors can have an agenda.

My experience with choosing schools is that oustanding OFSTED schools are not necessarily the best. In the same way that the aren't bad/good teachers, there is not one size fits all criteria to compare suitability of schools.

Good luck

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