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Ofsted Reports - should I read or ignore?

(20 Posts)
Gem13 Sun 09-Jan-05 17:14:44

We're planning on moving this year and I have just discovered that I will need to have DS's name down for school by October!

He is only 2 (July baby so will start Sept. 06) and apart from feeling rather weird at the thought of having to make a decision about where he is going to school I am feeling a bit daunted about the whole business.

I swore I wouldn't get too stressed about infant/primary education but we will be moving counties and so I just don't know anything about the 'local' schools. If we don't end up moving until the summer there won't be much time to pick up on local information or visits either.

I've been looking at the Ofsted reports and been amazed at what I've read in them (and between the lines) about some of the schools.

So, would you steer well clear of those schools where the KS1 SATs were Ds and Es or am I being ridiculous? Does anyone work in a school where they feel the inspectors were wrong or is it a pretty good picture?

aloha Sun 09-Jan-05 17:24:02

I'm amazed you need to choose schools this early. My ds is 3.4 and I haven't done anything yet. It's too early to put his name down. I would personally not be keen on ds going to a school with poor results.

Gem13 Sun 09-Jan-05 17:30:17

Was he born in September or August? If September ours will be in the same school year so you will be doing it later this year too. If August I would have thought you should have had some forms through by now. Friend with DD 3.11 (starting Sep. 05) had to have the forms in by December.

I'm trying to go with the 'we're well educated, interested parents so will keep on top of things' approach but am finding myself heading towards the 'who's got the best report, lets move near there' approach.

coppertop Sun 09-Jan-05 17:34:54

I think I would read them to get an idea of the different schools in the area but also to bear in mind that a lot can happen between now and 2006. The school may have made improvements based on the report. The schools with better results may deteriorate etc.

Ds1's school didn't do very well in the last OFSTED report. It's also in an area with a bad reputation. After seeing the progress ds1 has made in the 4 months that he's been there I would recommend this school to anyone. OFSTED reports can be important but there are other factors to be taken into consideration.

aloha Sun 09-Jan-05 17:40:42

He's a September baby (still my baby!!) and we may be moving house (house on market no sign of action) so am unwilling to put him down for anywhere when I don't know where we will be living (staying in area, but diff catchment probably). I am assuming he will go in Sept 06. I must admit, I'm not the most up to date person on this kind of thing though. It gives me the horrors!

Gem13 Sun 09-Jan-05 17:47:58

Same here Aloha! My main concern at the moment is will DS be out of nappies?

I know he will be but it seems strange to think about school while he is still a baby.

aloha Sun 09-Jan-05 17:52:15

Snap on the nappies too!! Hideous isn't it? He wanted to wear some pants the other day, so I put him in them and he was SO proud - and promptly weed AND pooed in them. He didn't even know he had weed, and thought he was wet with pineapple juice (was eating pineapple at the time)! What can you do?

ladymuck Sun 09-Jan-05 18:02:41

So long as you don't rely solely on the reports I think that they can give useful insights. But I do suggest that you take the tuime to visit the schools you are interested in - IME they are all very individual and you may find that one suits ds more than another.

Personally I would be put off by Ds and Es, but then I'm fortunate to live near to schools with As and Bs. What I found interesting about my preferred school's OFSTED report (said school having a very good reputation), is that actually the report concluded that the teaching was OK rather than great. But the children all had strong supportive home backgrounds, with many being coached towards 11+ resulting in decent SAT scores... So actually it isn't that the school is that great per se, just it attracts the right sort of parents as it were.

motherinferior Sun 09-Jan-05 18:07:29

Am I the only person who finds OFSTED reports, and league tables, unspeakably confusing? I feel truly humiliated by this admission, but I skirt round them in a hopeless way. And I'm quite a literate numerate sort of person who has to encounter the odd set of stats in daily life too -

triceratops Sun 09-Jan-05 18:19:43

I think the only way is to visit the school. You know your child and you know if they will repond to a strict dicipline/more free and creative atmosphere, whether they would like a place with a lot of emphasis on sports or drama or art or academic subjects and whether they are likely to need good SN support. Most schools can't do all things equally well.

Speaking to one or two teachers will usually tell you whether they are optimistic about the future in the school or if they are coasting or maybe have given up all together and are waiting to retire ( I used to work in a school like that and I wouldnt want to send my child there!)

Ofsted should be able to tell you about the real sink schools and the real academically excellent hothouses but I dont think you can really differentiate in the middle ground.

aloha Sun 09-Jan-05 18:21:35

My nearest primary is, I think, the worst in the whole of London (or at least in the bottom ten). Worse, children get mugged by gangs outside the gates! There's a whole article about it in the Observer, which I hope nobody will read as we are trying to sell our house!

firestorm Sun 09-Jan-05 18:21:51

it does seem rather early to have to put your ds`s name down for a school at the age of 2. i received my booklet & form for choosing a school (sorry, expressing a preference, lol!) yesterday & my dd is almost 4 & will start in sept. im not sure what to do really as we will hopefully not live here come sept. luckily for us though there is a great school close to where we are moving to that should have places available still come sept. we are actually moving away specifically for better schools than the local ones (mostly e`s) but a lot of schools round here are doing a fantastic job (probably better than a lot of higher achieving schools) because to even get slightly below average scores when most of the class come from families who dont give a damn about their education is a fantastic achievement.

roisin Sun 09-Jan-05 18:25:50

Gem13 - Yes, do read Ofsteds, but make sure you read several, or at least the summaries of several: Everything's couched in such positive ways, it's sometimes hard to get the real picture. The first Ofsted I read was not very good, but I thought it was OK because it wasn't roundly condemning!

The As and Bs I think are far more worthwhile than looking at SATs results, as they tell a more complete story.

But reading an Ofsted isn't a substitute for visiting the school, especially if it's an old report and/or the Head has changed.

Tinker Sun 09-Jan-05 18:29:48

You do need to visit the school and talk to teachers and the head and parents of kids who already go there. My daughter's school does get mostly Ds and Es but it has a very postive happy atmosphere, lots of parents were happy with the school but it's in a socially deprived catchment area. The Ofsted report also went into detail about why D's and Es didn't really reflect the good work of the school.

roisin Sun 09-Jan-05 18:30:50

Triceratops [great name btw - is it a name-change or are you new?] - I disagree about what Ofsted an tell you. Our primary school has had two overall 'excellents' from Ofsted as did another local infant school; the local 'academic hothouse' with a more privileged catchment area did not. We have very high levels of deprivation in our town, and children coming from very difficult backgrounds. What the schools achieve with these children is amazing, and (although they do get As against comparable schools) it goes far beyond the academic results.

joash Sun 09-Jan-05 18:41:57

Be very careful of basing any decision on ofstead reports. My two daughters went to the best school in the area (scores quite highly nationally too), excellent ofsted reports. The school has a fabulous reputation, there have been 'fights' re; catchment areas, and getting children in, etc (in all newspapers at the time). However, the reality is somewhat different.

Both daughters were happy, bright, intelligent, confident young girls when they started at the school. The eldest stayed in the school all the way through - she was bullied throughout (eventually learned that this was by teachers and pupils alike). Her work went rapidly downhill and her personality changed totally - she became withdrawn and miserable. The headteacher was obsessed that the majority of 'his' pupils came from families who were in senior management or owned their own businesses, his only concerns were the children of people who could help him financially with the school (he got plenty of donations).

DD2 was headed in the same direction when we moved. She and DS (then in primary school) wanted to change schools to ones nearer to our new home. (I wasn't keen because both the local primary and secondary do not do well in ofsted reports or league tables. However, I gave in. Both these schools are fantastic. Very supportive of all pupils regardless of backgrounds or circumstances.

DD2 did excellently at school and went on to college to start her A-levels. Although DS's ambition has always been to become a chef, he is seriously considering law (his teachers say he is talented enough and has the personality to become a top barrister).

It wasn't until they had been in these schools for a few months that we realised that DD1's 'problems' came from the old school. It has recently been in all local and some national newspapers about behaviour problems and other things within the school. The head is still denying it and the school still continues to perform well on paper. Reality is a different matter.

My advice would be to talk to people whose children go to local schools - find out what they think and trust your gut instinct not reports or league tables.

jenkel Sun 09-Jan-05 19:18:57

My local school has had a poor ofsted report, we live in a village and its the only school in the village. However, talking to other parents they think its brilliant. It had a big staff turnaround just at the time of the ofsted report, so that could explain the poor report. Also a friend who lives in a neigbouring town wants her son to go to the same school despite the poor report. Her thinking behind it is they have to improve.

Gem13 Sun 09-Jan-05 20:56:32

Thanks everyone for your thoughts. It's going to be difficult enough moving as it is - new area, hour and half away (so no jumping in the car to check out houses), and now I have to think about schools too. In a way there is more of a 'push' now as I will want to know some other mothers to talk to them (and see the schools) before October.

The issue is complicated by the fact that there are infant schools as well as primaries and it's difficult trying to find stats on the infant schools.

I like your friend's point Jenkel about the school improving. The report of the one I read which could be the nearest was in 2002.

Gem13 Sun 09-Jan-05 20:58:13

joash - your experience sounds scary! Hope DD1 is ok now.

Mimsie Mon 10-Jan-05 08:13:00

try upmystreet.com to look at the local primaries maybe? it does give you some statistics about the schools. That's what I did then called them and visited them. then I kind of acted on gut instinct and put myself down in one school.

GOt to run or we'll be late for school!!!

Good luck and let us know

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