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

(85 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.

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