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how much do you choose a school based on Ofsted reports, esp if moving into a new area?

(18 Posts)
MissChief Fri 12-May-06 12:05:20

We're relocating and finding it hard to get a proper understanding of prospective schools. I'm checking Ofsted reports and KS2 & 3 results as well as GCSE/A-level results and school websites. Any serious contenders I'll visit too.
Our ideal (obviously!) is to move to an area with great state schools from infant right through to sixth form as we're planning a long-term move. It's mighty difficult to find a convenient area which has consistently goodish results/reports across the board! One primary we're interested in last had an Ofsted 6 yrs ago and was judged "effective" (as opposed to good or vg) and there were some concerns mentioned re writing & pupil behaviour. Since then, there's been a new head and the latest writing results were good. I@m wondering if it's worth uprooting us all to move to a school which is "only" effective or am I being unfair/expecting too much??

MrsBigD Fri 12-May-06 12:26:29

I probably would take the ofsted report into consideration but not solely on that base my decision. Have you thought about throwing up a question here on mn re schools you are considering? I'm sure there's someone on here with a kid in some school iykwim

Also it depends what you want out of the school. e.g. in our area we have one school that seems to have emphasise on sporty stuff and another that's more arty etc.

MissChief Fri 12-May-06 13:01:02

Thanks, MrsD - so would you be happy enough with an effective school, just out of interest? Maybe I'll post for the particular schools too, then.

MrsBigD Fri 12-May-06 13:20:44

probably would I was put into a highflyer school (back home in Germany) but because I'm not very academic I only ever manged to get Cs on a good day might have done better in a school that was just effective

If 'effective' worries you you can always make certain you encourage your kid to study along/outside school hours. As far as I know they do statistics based on an lets say average of A level marks... to get an effective there must be a very good somewhere in there, unless of course they're all mediocre . O.k. not a very good example but ykwim?

MissChief Fri 12-May-06 13:35:20

I do know what you mean - the school in question is primary though so not from exam results which is probably why it worries me more! I'll have to judge for myself when we go and viist but will beat myself up if we do move and doesn't work out well for ds,,,

FrayedKnot Fri 12-May-06 13:45:07

I based quite a big part of the decison on Ofsted results.

We were moving to an area 150 miles away from "home", where we have no friends or family.

I identified several different possible locations which looked OK from a geographical point of view - proximity to DH new job, ease of access.

Then I checked out the local primary school ofsted reports. DS is 2 so I thought I wouldn;t botehr with looking at seconday schools - such a lot could change in that time.

On village I initially thought would be nice had a school which was taken off special measures last year - I'm afraid that was a no.

Anyway, this narrowed down our search to three areas. We then did drive rounds which eliminated one of the areas, then viewed houses in the other two.

In this area in any case, as far as secondary goes, we have several good schools within 10 mins bus ride or easy bike ride, as we have 2 grammar schools and two comprehensives, any of which we can choose (partly depending on whether DS would be eligible for grammar school, of course).

MissChief Fri 12-May-06 13:46:57

I'm probably being stupid here, but how exactly do you find out whether a school is on/just come off special measures? I'm only finding "on-message" info from the county council & the school.

Littlefish Fri 12-May-06 13:56:18

MissChief, a school can change a great deal in 6 years, particularly with a new Head in place. Is there a school website? If you phone the LEA or school, they will be able to give you more up-to-date information on academic results. I worked in a school that went from "Satisfactory" to "Good" in 2 years.

Is there anyway at all that you can go and visit?

MissChief Fri 12-May-06 13:57:54

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

Littlefish Fri 12-May-06 14:06:06

Most of the children who were in the school 6 years ago will no longer be there. The headteacher has changed too. Find out how many staff have changed since the last ofsted report.

The new headteacher will have formulated an action plan following the last ofsted visit and behaviour will have been a high priority.

Is the "effective" grade in the same scale as good/very good etc. As far as I'm aware, the grade before "good" was "satisfactory". (The grades have changed now.)

MissChief Fri 12-May-06 14:08:48

it's from 2001 - under the How Good the School is section - "X is an effective school that is committed to high standards and continuous improvements"
others I've seen (in places we like less of course!) have been "good" or "v good" in this section..

interstella Fri 12-May-06 14:46:56

Well,we put our ds into a school on special measures and are v glad we did , the school is unrecognisable from that just a couple of years ago,and further more is streets ahead of the more popular schools in the area now.We just felt it was right for our son,often schols which have "easier" pupils- middle class,educated parents blah blah seem to just coast along and failing schools get good intervention and come up trumps,Generalisation i know.My ds is v bright and his school have met his needs wonderfully.So ,i really wouldnt go on an ofstead alone ,no.

WWWontSlagOffAnyone Fri 12-May-06 23:26:31

MissChief, I didn't really look at the Ofsted, I looked at, in this order:

the website, just because we did it from a distance and it told me a lot about the school/had a virtual tour
the head adn what I thought of her and her philosophy when she took us round
the school and the pupils and the general impression we got
I skim read the Ofsted.

A good/bad head can make ALL the difference imo.

WWWontSlagOffAnyone Fri 12-May-06 23:28:48

And bear in mind that somewhere that's good or great now may not be in 5 years time, i.e. what's considered a fab school now may not be by the time your child gets there but obv this only applies if you're thinking about secondary when your child is 6 or something. So you can think ahead but things can change.

rarrie Sun 14-May-06 21:35:44

Read them but do take them with a pinch of salt. Ofsted reports are good, but do note that many schools do go to great extremes to ensure that they get a good ofsted. I know of teachers who would teach these amazing lessons for ofsted, and get their grade 1s etc but never taught those type of lessons rest of the year! Whereas there are the miserable sods like me, who don't play the system so much, and do an enhanced but pretty much standard lesson and only ever get grade 2s. I even know of a few teachers who actually taught the lessons to students a few weeks before Ofsted came, so that they had the perfect lessons when they were inspected! I know of one school that spent over half a million pounds preparing for their ofsted report - cleaning it up etc, but it paid off as they got their excellent ofsted report and now things are back to the same as they were before Ofsted came!

I would also suggest you listen to the views of parents, but do be aware that these views can be outdated. Again, I know of a school, who had the reputation for being the best in the town and the one that all respectable parents tried to get their kids into, but the reality was that a fast expansion of the school meant that it had gone downhill quite quickly and was nowhere near the school it was a few years before, but managed to coast on its reputation for quite some time. Equally, a school can have a really bad reputation and that can take a long time to change even though there may be a new head and things have been turned around.

Also bear in mind the socio economic status of the catchment area... when comparing GCSE results and the like remember that a 'middle class' state school usually does better than one in a working class area, but that does not necessarily mean that the teaching is better. I know of a school whereby it has had fab GCSE results, but that's because parents pay a premium to live in the catchment area, and the kids tend to be really bright. If you had looked more carefully into their Alis predictions etc then school didn't actually do as well as it seemed at first sight.

All in all, it is a bit of a minefield, and I personally think nothing compares with going with your gut instinct from viewing the school (but not on open days when the school is on its best behaviour!)

sunnydelight Mon 15-May-06 09:32:03

I agree with pretty much everything rarrie has said - for me the atmosphere of the school is far more important, and most crucial of all is a good headteacher. Some schools do wonders with the children they have, others seem to be doing much better but you need to look at the "raw material" they are working with!!! We moved DS2 last year and when we looked around the school the head knew all the kids by name - despite it being a double entry primary school - seemed to have a great relationship with his staff, and the kids just seemed happy. DS1 started reception in an "up and coming" school; by year 5 it was so popular you had the usual mad scramble for places and it had lost most of the wonderful facilities it had like an art room/music room/ library etc. as they were all now being used as classrooms. In fact though the fantastic head who had turned the school round had moved on and the school was seriously sliding - we pulled DS1 - but it coasted on it's reputation until recently. At the end of the day trust your instincts.

nessmc Fri 26-May-06 15:05:57

hello, i'm new to mumsnet so bear with me.i'm moving in a few months time, and am currently researching primary schools in the following areas:norwood, sydenham, peckham, dulwich. feeling a bit bamboozled by all the info available, whats the word on the street? also is there a mumsnet group particular to these areas??nessmc

MissChief Fri 26-May-06 17:51:35

hi there- would be worth you also posting in the "meet-ups" subject to get info on those particular areas. Good luck with it, i'm finding it a nightmare!

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