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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?

ipadquietly Mon 20-May-13 19:27:42

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

3 of our teachers were out of class for the whole of the inspection on a pre-booked course. 2 of these teachers were SLT.
The short notice makes it too expensive to cancel courses. Ofsted spent more time observing supply teachers and a student than they did full-time members of staff. It was a complete joke.

BabiesAreLikeBuses Mon 20-May-13 19:55:55

3 levels progress is not expected, it's exceptional, we had a few do it last year - although i worry that a level 6 in year 6 makes it impossible to achieve good progress at ks3, just passes the buck and puts pressure on the child... As for keeping kids at a 2a, i haven't heard of that, i have for the past decade dealt with a lot of dubious level 3c kids who were going to struggle to convert to a 5, it requires the maturity that lots of 11 year olds don't have. Yes the infant and junior schools are separate!
Your school is right that data is top of ofsted's agenda, we were told last time we couldn't get above satisfactory because of the 91% who came up with l3 only 75% converted to a 5. Doesn't matter that these results are great for ks2 nationally. It also didn't matter that most lessons were good or outstanding, data was the number one, we've been battling with it ever since.
To make 3 levels progress you'd really have to suck the joy of school out, i became a primary teacher because my primary years were fun, not filled with lessons on how to take tests...

Blissx Mon 20-May-13 20:16:07

Just want to point out the different Ofsted inspectors interpret the criteria in different ways. Therefore, it is not a fair or uniform process...and yes, a school can be downgraded on just one criteria alone. It shouldn't happen, but it does.

AThingInYourLife Mon 20-May-13 20:29:14

This thread is so depressing.

It could be about measuring the levels of anything.

Pages and pages about metrics and targets and levels and sublevels.

How can anybody be happy for their children to be subjected to this philistine bullshit?

StuffezLaYoni Mon 20-May-13 20:50:27

In fairness, AThing, while teachers are acutely aware of this targets/levels bullshit, we do actually care and nurture the children as people, as well. Just, sadly, that doesn't seem to matter too much to the powers that be.

cansu Mon 20-May-13 20:50:51

Two thoughts
1. Children are not robots. Progress doesn't happen at a uniform rate. Children need time to consolidate skills. You can have a child produce level 5 writing in say story writing but be unable to do this in another text type. They may be able to do it when the task is heavily scaffolded or pre taught in terms of planning as a class or worked on over several lessons but not when done in an exam. Basing your assessment of a child based on snapshot testing is superficial and un reliable.
2. We do not expect all our dc to achieve the same number of GCSE and at the same grade. We accept that our children are not all academic and have different capabilities. We seem to be unable to see this in relation to NC levels. Schools are expected to get all Y6 to level 4 and then by virtue of these stupid targets to level 6 by year 8. The expectation is that teaching trumps intelligence. Yes good teaching will move a child on but not to the same extent or to the same level as every other child.

fourlittleangels Mon 20-May-13 20:52:23

I agree Athing and also how can any parent have any confidence that a school is doing things 'right' if the ofsted system is the only official observation we have to go by!?

I want to be pleased that my children school has just been awarded outstanding in all areas, but from what I've read on this thread and others it seems it could be meaningless, luck of the draw with and inspector or a fix for academy status.... Definitely DEPRESSING!!!

clam Mon 20-May-13 21:06:29

"could be" meaningless? No "could" about it.

iPadTypo Mon 20-May-13 21:28:05

If I pm ec someone my school, coils someone give an unbiased view of where it is at? Would be really interested to know as we are due an inspection. I am also forvarious reasons, considering changing schools. But if the ks2 is worth staying for then perhaps we should hold on?

iPadTypo Mon 20-May-13 21:30:07

Apologies for typos!

fourlittleangels Mon 20-May-13 21:35:27

clam but I struggle to believe it can be totally meaningless. Otherwise how is the future generations education monitored and how to we as parents ensure our children get a half decent start.

We can support at home to our best abilities, but we aren't all teacher nor do we know how to support our children to ensure they reach their maximum potential. If the inspections really stood for nothing surely there wouldn't be so much hype over them nor would they still take place!?

There is only so much feel you can get for a school without being in the classrooms yourself!

clam Mon 20-May-13 21:44:06

Ofsted have pretty much decided what category they're going to put a school in before they even arrive on the doorstep. They've see all the stats and they're looking to confirm their thoughts.
In terms of "luck of the draw" that's exactly what it is with regards to their lesson observations. I've known teachers deliver almost identical lessons in front of different inspectors and received a whole range of gradings.

clam Mon 20-May-13 21:46:04

But I don't believe that an Ofsted grading depicts the whole school, no. Too many schools are getting wildly differing gradings from previous inspections at the moment. It's all political. Makes me cross.

tiggytape Mon 20-May-13 21:46:32

But the point is that Ofsted do not require 3 levels of progress over KS2 to award a good or outstanding grade.

OP's school have told parents that this is the only reason they have been downgraded to requiring improvement (the old term for satisfactory) when in fact it is not true. They do not need to get all or even most children making that kind of stellar progress - just good and normal amounts in line with or above expected levels.

And, progress unlike attainment takes account of starting points - not all children can achieve equal grades but they should all be capable of progress even if some starting points are much, much lower than others. From what the OP has said, her school like many others looks very good when judged purely on academic outcomes but when those outcomes are examined in relation to the high ability intake, the school looks less good in terms of the progress it makes. Another school with similar results may be a far better school simply because they get comparable (or even slightly worse SATS outcomes) but start with an intake of much lower ability overall.

PurpleAlert Mon 20-May-13 22:00:38

Haven't read the whole thread but ofsted are looking for" better than expected progress"
Expected progress is two whole levels e.g. 2b- 4b or 3c- 5c etc.

We were told that better than expected might mean one extra sub level. E.g. 2a- 5c. Three whole levels (2b-5b) is fairly unlikely for the majority of pupils.

AThingInYourLife Mon 20-May-13 22:02:01

"In fairness, AThing, while teachers are acutely aware of this targets/levels bullshit, we do actually care and nurture the children as people, as well."

Oh I know that, Stuffez.

It just makes me fucking crazy that clever, creative, resourceful people who are doing an important job they care about are being forced to waste their time on this worse than pointless shit.

How do you tell if a school is good?

Visit the school, talk to the parents.

Are the children happy? Flourishing? Confident? Being encouraged and inspired?

Then it's a good school.

You can't measure the stuff that matters.

You have to make a judgement.

The waste of time, of talent, and of resources involved in this inspection regime makes me want to cry.

clam Mon 20-May-13 22:08:55

"better than expected progress." In bridge terms, they're called 'over-tricks.' grin

teacherwith2kids Mon 20-May-13 22:19:20


I was educated in state primaries before Ofsted, and my siblings in state secondaries in the same period.

I would not wish to go back to a 'non-inspected' regime - one in which a teacher can teach the wrong O-level syllabus for years 'because it was too difficult to teach the right one after it changed to be different from the CSE one' and in which the Romans and Impressionist painting can be taught in every year group in the same primary 'because the teachers like it'.

I agree that there is a balance between holding to account and allowing professionals to do their jobs - but some accountability measures ARE necessary.

If we as parents did not attach such weight to Ofsted results in choosing schools, then the whole process would be less destructive - so every time we choose a 'Good' school because of its grading, or try to advise a poster about getting into an 'Outstanding' local school, we are in fact feeding exactly the same monster as this thread is criticising....

tiggytape Mon 20-May-13 22:25:36

Which parents do you talk to then AThing?
The parents of children in Year 1 who have lovely job share teachers doing a fantastic job and who will get the most experienced Year 2 teacher in September? Or the parents of children with the grumpy, disorganised and totally unapproachable Year 4 teacher who will also get the weaker teacher for Year 5 having had a sucession of supply teachers all through Year 3?

The parents of the child who is a maths genius who thinks it is just fantastic that the school lays on extra classes to stretch him and love the focus on g&t children? Or the parents of the child with dyslexia who are frustrated that after 2 years their child's needs are still not met and who know the failing of the SEN provision more than most?

Ofsted may have faults but parents cannot know the ins and outs of any school just by popping their head round the door and chatting to other parents. And yes a happy school is wonderful but not if the children leave Year 6 without being at the level they need to be for the next stage of their education or at least having been given the chances to get there.

I've had 2 children go through primary and my opinion on even just one school is totally coloured by the teachers each of my children got (they never had the same teacher and it became apparant that each year group had teachers of vastly differing abilities and styles), the class mixes made and the way each of my children's needs were met (both the g&t provision and additional needs aspects). Parents who just had child in either of those year group would never have known how much better / worse things were for those further up / lower down the school. It actually made me realise that parental opinion is only accurate for that teacher in that year group with that class and in relation to the type of child they happen to have.

JoyMachine Mon 20-May-13 22:29:25

I am struggling to understand how children could come out with a Level 6 in English Tests.
In 2012 children could sit level 6 papers in Reading and in Maths, but the Writing Tests aren't compulsory, and the DfE is calculating the overall English Test mark using the Writing TA converted to a point score (Level 3=30, Level 4=40, Level 5=50, Level 6... doesn't exist hmm according to them)

AThingInYourLife Mon 20-May-13 22:31:40

You can have inspections that are not based on tracking meaningless data, the collection of which warps and distorts the curriculum.

This is not what education is about.

teacherwith2kids Mon 20-May-13 22:32:43

I would agree with tiggy.

I have taught children who transferred from a school noted for its 'happy, confident children'.

By Year 3, even the most able child - who should have been WELL above average in all areas - had significant weaknesses in most subjects when they tranbsferred. A fact that had gone unnoticed because ALL of his class had been slipping gradually behind, so he was 'top of the class'...but still falling behind enough to be lower middle of the class in my school in a much, much more challenging area, and severla levels below that expected for his age.

It is genuinely hard to judge a school. It requires a 'helicopter' overall view - and Ofsted, for all its flaws, does try to bring that. The 'high stakes' nature of an Ofsted result, though, is not of Ofsted's making - we make it, as consumers of education, and the government makes it.

teacherwith2kids Mon 20-May-13 22:35:29

So what would you measure? Progress shown by the work in children's books - that is, at all but a very few points in a child's school life (specifically, Reading and Maths in Year 6) what the levels are based on. Teaching and learning - that is observed. The children's demeanor and enthusiasm for larning - that is observed and forms part of the judgement.

admission Mon 20-May-13 23:26:09

Sockpinchingmonster, I have come to this set of posts very late but reading through all your posts this school's response l just screams at you that it is a school that has been coasting along for ages on the back of an outstanding Ofsted. It has been guilty of not keeping up to date with where Ofsted are in terms of how they have been inspecting since September 2012 (and actually before that) and being complacent. They should have known that the progress a pupil was making was as important as the actual level of attainment.

Has the actual report come out yet, as this may be quite illuminating on the overall state of the school? If you want a relatively unbiased view of what may be you need to read into the report then I am happy to look at it and give you my thoughts. If so PM me with the school name and LA. I inspect schools in Wales.

NynaevesSister Tue 21-May-13 05:13:52

I know of three schools where this is the case - near 100% at level 4 and around 50% at level 5. All three with challenging intakes. One in particular is in a ward with high levels of child poverty. Just because a child is from a chaotic background doesn't mean they can't attain just what is considered normal. Level 4 isn't a high bar. A good school can work with these children over 7 years and help them achieve. A look at the dashboard for the school shows no difference or even slightly higher attainment for those on free school meals.

It is not the only school to achieve this. Why set expectations low and blame it on the children and their backgrounds? I say this as the parent of a child who learns very differently indeed. It may seem like a miracle that he could reach level 4 when he gets to year six
But as you say all children develop differently. I am confident that my son will get there as the school are doing everything they can to help him unlock his potential.

I find it sad that in another school they would just accept that not everyone can reach a level 4 and not stretch him enough.

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