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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?

tiggytape Mon 20-May-13 14:37:21

I have just looked up Ofsted 2013 (School Data Dashboard guidance) covering expected progress in KS2 and this is what is says. It was published February 2013:

"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."

I definitely know of schools re-inspected since September 2012 who have retained their outstanding grade and their level 3 children do not all get a level 6 in Year 6 - especially not in English. So whilst Ofsted would probably look very favourably upon any school that managed to get 3 full levels of progress across the board, failing to do so would not in itself lead to a school being downgraded in this way.

I wouldn't be so worried about that though because attainment is obviously high - be that down to the school or the children or a combination of both. However the school's response to the report is not good. A point by point rebuttal of everything the inspectors said, alongside the school objecting that they didn't get to wheel out the best staff to perform on the day, is hardly confidence inspiring. Hopefully it is just a knee jerk reaction and they will actually take some points raised on board.

noblegiraffe Mon 20-May-13 14:37:43

Requires Improvement is on the way to being forced to becoming an academy. The more cynical among us would suspect that the increase in schools being found wanting are part of a scheme to convert all schools to academies.

Ofsted not observing the 3 strongest teachers is odd. The school will have provided Ofsted with what it reckons are its strong, middling and weak teachers and Ofsted should be checking those evaluations. If they haven't observed the strongest teachers then they are not doing their job.

DeWe Mon 20-May-13 14:47:16

'Our 3 strongest teachers were not even observed by the inspectors'
I thought at primary level all teachers that were teaching over the time the inspectors were in would be assessed.

Certainly at dc's school (large numbers of forms per year) all teachers were inspected. The inspectors were in school for three days, so if the teacher wasn't teaching in those days they they wouldn't have been.

Elibean Mon 20-May-13 14:56:57

sock, I would ask the school why their three strongest teachers weren't inspected.

If they are part time, that may be it (our inspection was only 2 days). But if their three strongest teachers are only p/t, then there is less outstanding teaching going on in the school, so...!

I haven't heard our SLT say that anything Ofsted said was unfair, and would be concerned if I had. But, I repeat, we may have been lucky with our inspectors.

We can only guess about your particular school, but I would make a stab at it not being black and white. There probably are some points that are unfair, but an awful lot of justification and blithering too - which suggest a) the school haven't processed the feedback before reacting to it and b) panic.

tiggytape Mon 20-May-13 15:01:22

I think justifications from the school along those lines are far worse than saying (what is hopefully true) that they are unhappy with some elements of the report but will be addressing all issues raised and are confident that, within a very short time, any concerns will be rectified.

That would have been enough. The school gets good results. All parents know that. There are some less good aspects. Many parents would have seen those too and taken an overall view that it isn't so bad.

However, when the Head complains that it is unfair their 3 best teachers weren't observed, it just worries parents even more - who are these 3 best teachers, do they teach their children, are the other teachers so bad that the Head blames them for dragging down the inspectors' view of the whole school? Of course this isn't true but nit picking at each finding and then countering each point with a justification doesn't give parents much hope that the (hopefully few) changes needed will be managed well.

Elibean Mon 20-May-13 15:04:56


SmallSchoolPrimaryTeacher Mon 20-May-13 15:17:51

Under the new framework, schools are targeted for children 'making expected progress' (ie 2 levels from KS1 to KS2) and 'exceeding expected progress' (ie 3 levels).
From the Ofsted framework:
Outstanding = Taking account of their different starting points, the proportions of pupils making and exceeding expected progress are high compared with national figures.
Good = Taking account of their different starting points, the proportions of pupils making and exceeding expected progress compare favourably with national figures. Where the proportion making expected progress overall is lower than that found nationally, it is improving over a sustained period.
Schools need to locate the national data (hidden in the RaiseOnline library) and then make comparisons. For example, a school needs to compare the proportion of their children going (in reading, writing and maths) from 2c to 4 (expected) and 2c to 5 (better than expected), 2b to 4 and 2b to 5 etc with the proportion nationally.
I imagine the school in the OP fell down in this area.
Our school only got 'good,' as insufficient of the writers who were 2c at KS1 reached Level 5 (all reached Level 4). In fact, neither of them did, so we got 100% making expected progress and 0% making better than expected for that sub-category.

noblegiraffe Mon 20-May-13 15:42:02

It's very difficult to exceed expected progress if your target is a level 6.

tiggytape Mon 20-May-13 15:58:09

But nobody's target would be a level 6 noble.

Since 2 full levels is the expected rate of progress and 3 is exceeding the expected level, the highest 'expected' level at KS2 is a level 5. Children don't get level 4's in Year 2 therefore none of them are 'expected' to get a level 6 in Year 6. Any that do have exceeded expectation by making at least 3 full levels of progress.

sittinginthesun Mon 20-May-13 16:03:24

Tiggy - the question our Governing Body is wondering is whether a level 3c should be reported as a level 3. Apparently a lot of local school have been reporting as a 2a, because otherwise it is deemed to be a 3b. Any idea whether this is right?

tiggytape Mon 20-May-13 16:15:20

Yes a level 3c is a 3 but, by the same token, a 5c is a 5 so if the child makes the expected amount of progress this will be fairly reflected in the reported figures.

If you mean do other schools 'dumb down' elements of their Year 2 grading in order to demonstrate a much faster rate of progress in KS2 then, the answer is maybe – but there’s not a whole lot of room for this. Some elements of the assessment are open to interpretation but should be levelled so that a standard is agreed. However, it is not uncommon, for example, where infants and juniors are separate for the junior school to quietly despair at some of the children starting supposedly on level 3 who they would not judge as being such (and to speculate cynically that the infant school has nothing to lose by this since they wash their hands of them in Year 2 having made sure their own progress figures are given the benefit of any doubt).

There's lot of other variable that can affect the figures too so if you are asking, are the levels an exact science then the answer is no but the same sort of constraints apply to most schools.

Sticklebug Mon 20-May-13 16:30:17

Sock - We have had a similar experience at DC's school and they blamed the Surrey Ofsted team - according to the school they are the toughest in the country (sounded like a defensive line to me!). Are you in Surrey?

noblegiraffe Mon 20-May-13 16:39:58

Ok, but if you need a level 6 to exceed expectations, given that official level 6 was only introduced last year it will be difficult to get that as the system isn't really geared up for it yet.

sittinginthesun Mon 20-May-13 16:57:49

Thanks Tiggy, I see what you mean. We always report what we genuinely see, but we hear so many stories.

Our problem group isn't actually our higher attainers, it's our SENs and FSM children. They make expected improvement, but we are struggling to get them over the two levels if progress.

Due an Osfted as well...

yanbu123456 Mon 20-May-13 17:04:06

Three levels doesn't make sense. A level 3c is around one year ahead of expectations whereas a level 6 is a good 3 years ahead of 'expectations' isn't it? That sort of accelerated progress must happen occasionally but it surely wouldn't be the norm. The % of children getting level 3 in KS1 is a fair bit lower than L6 in year 6.

SockPinchingMonster Mon 20-May-13 17:32:00

Thanks everyone for your responses. So i guess a school wouldn't necessarily be knocked down from Outstanding to Requires Improvement on this aspect alone but perhaps the school are trying to put this spin on it to distract from the real problems - I just hope for my children's sake that they take on board OFSTED's comments and make changes.

Sticklebug - No not from Surrey, we're in Yorkshire. I think schools tend to slag off OFSTED when it doesn't go in their favour, feels like our school is blaming anyone but themselves.

teacherwith2kids Mon 20-May-13 17:47:50

I recently watched a school - not one I taught in, but one I know well, respond in an absolutely exemplary manner to a negative Ofsted (Good to Special measures).

Absolutely no defensive spin - an initial comment that all in the school, while disappointed with the results, were committed to addressing all the issues raised and to ensure that every child's education was improved. A week by week update on exactly what was happening - which advisors were coming in, staff training, new approaches, all linked back to the post-Ofsted action plan. A hugely pro-active reaching out to those in the local community who were worried - open classrooms (a once a week 'come in and see what your child has been doing' for each class, for example), governors and staff meeting the parish council, all senior staff available all the time to be spoken to by parents, the community invited in to help (e.g. running clubs, tidying the grounds, volunteering in the classroom) etc.

Came out of SMs within a year, to Good with Outstanding features and, more importantly, with growing numbers and the whole community rallying behind them (there had been a gradual loss to other schools).

Defensiveness just sends all the wrong messages.

spanieleyes Mon 20-May-13 18:00:09

The shifting goalposts again!
2 levels progress is expected, therefore only satisfactory ( and satisfactory now "requires improvement" !) To be good you need more than 2 levels progress and to be outstanding you need 3!

StuffezLaYoni Mon 20-May-13 18:00:14

I teach year six in a junior school. We inherit many children from the Infant school on 3b who are in NO way working consistently at that level. The idea of them achieving sixes is ridiculous.
If our SAT scores go the right way, 96% of our cohort will have made their two levels progress, but if it were 3 levels that number would be a fraction of that.
FFS not all children are cut out to be academic geniuses!

cansu Mon 20-May-13 18:20:08

This makes me really cross. This is why Ofsted is so unhelpful. I doubt anything has changed since the last inspection except the goal posts have changed. If you are happy with your dd progress before the inspection and are happy with what you have seen when in school then there is no cause for concern. I think the fact that schools seem to yoyo in and out of these categories shows how subjective and arbitrary the Ofsted judgements are.

tiggytape Mon 20-May-13 18:29:05

cansu - OP says she does agree with some aspects Ofsted have raised (if not the overall grading) in the sense that some things she has seen when in school have caused her to question the original outstanding it had been awarded.

You may be right in saying nothing much has changed between then and no except the school cannot now rely so much on having a very able intake and getting very good SATS to impress Ofsted. So, whilst it may be true nothing has got worse in school at all, that doesn't mean the school was outstanding in the first place in terms of the value it added to a generally very high achieving intake.

NynaevesSister Mon 20-May-13 18:31:41

It is interesting to see the expectations in this thread. A level 4 is just what any child should be able to do at that age. Really educating/stretching a child means a level 5. I can see no reason why all schools shouldn't be close to 100%. Every year. Of course there are good reasons such as SEN, so that 85% or higher might be the case. But overall, with no SEN why aren't all schools at 100%?

StuffezLaYoni Mon 20-May-13 18:37:37

Because children don't all make their progress in a nice, linear way.
Also, there are many, many children who aren't necessarily SEN but due to their upbringing (chaotic, unsupportive, neglectful) who simply aren't able to learn or retain. Poor motor/social skills/limited vocabulary can set children's education back years.
Going from a school in a terrible town to one in a "naice" area this is ever more apparent.

sittinginthesun Mon 20-May-13 19:12:17

Also because many children with SEN are still expected to achieve level 4. Brilliant if they can, but for many this is a real achievement.

girliefriend Mon 20-May-13 19:25:08

Was talking to my dad about this tonight as my brothers school (my brother is a teacher not a pupil!) has been downgraded from outstanding to satisfactory and all the staff were very shocked.

My dad thinks its all political and a way to get more schools to go down the route of academy and also justify what Gove is doing to the curriculum.

Not sure what I think tbh but could see his point.

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