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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?

sony4 Sun 14-Dec-14 12:28:17

Be interesting to see what happens when we have life without levels

junkfoodaddict Sat 15-Jun-13 20:50:39

OFSTED should not be trusted. They change the criteria every so many years. I have been through FOUR OFSTED inspections and EVERY ONE has been under different criteria. Quite frankly, if OFSTED are having to change what is considered 'good' or 'outstanding' every 3 or 4 years, then the fault doesn't lie with schools, it lies with them because it shows they haven't a friggin' clue about what consitutes a 'good' or 'outstanding' school!!
My school was grade 3, despite the LEA saying it was a 2 and our SEN provision being graded as 1. The leading inspector had NO PRIMARY SCHOOL EXPERIENCE. He ADMITTED that if the inspection came after the SAT results, then the grading would likely to be different. He even ADMITTED that the inpsection was a political one - a move to 'show' that LEAs were not doing their job effectively to support and improve schools so they (OFSTED) could sideline into school improvement services. The new OFSTED framework has been changed to force schools into becoming academies.
But making a 30% jump in children attaining level 4+ at the end of Year 6 within 3 years does not show good progress apparently!

beauty67 Sat 15-Jun-13 13:18:09


Sounds like what's happened at my sons school,you're not in Hull by any chance are you?? School in top 20% of schools in country and downgraded from 'Outstanding' to 'Needs improving'.Is there room for improvement in the school?? Yes! that goes without saying for every school but to downgrade from 'Outstanding' to 'needs improving' just leaves me thinking either:There's something going on behind the scenes that us parents don't know about(this wouldn't shock me) OR that Ofsted reports should be taken with a large pinch of salt,they pick up on things that really are quite pathetic sometimes(just as plausible).They put so much pressure on the schools and sometimes unjustly so,who in turn put pressure on the kids to out perform other schools etc.It amuses me to hear parents bragging how G+T their child is because they are a level 5 and their child is boosting the school up in the league tables etc when in fact it's how many levels the child has progressed from entry to sch-end of key stage 1 then to end of key stage 2.Most sec schools base G+T on a level 6 so gonna be a lot of upset parents and kids in Sept.My statemented child was 18-24mths behind on entry to school only getting a 1c end of key stage 1 in Yr2(not even a 1c in Maths)now he's in yr6 he's on level 4b/a's in all subjects up to end of last term...that's as much as 11 sub levels in key stage 2....Now I think that's amazing BUT the thing I care about most is my child's happiness and well being.He is polite,extremely well mannered and an absolute pleasure to be around.I would pay as much attention to an Ofsted report as I would a SAT's result.An Ofsted report can change depending on who you get on the day/s same as a SAT's test can be down to what questions you get on the day.That's my theory :-)

fourlittleangels Wed 22-May-13 11:43:27

Blissx funny you should mention Finland as it is a country we have seriously considered moving to, along with Norway, due to their education system. I think the difference is that their system is so different and outwardly successful therefore there seems to be some faith in the system.

You only have to compare curriculum restraints as a starting point to see how stark the difference is and their way of living and lack of private school, impeccable pre school care etc. Maybe if 'we' looked around we could see what is going 'wrong' rather than just put an ofsted system into place to assess but not a lot else!

Blissx Tue 21-May-13 19:55:41

fourlittleangels, in answer to your question on the previous page, can I get you to consider the following? Australia and Finalnd do not have
Ofsted equivalents and are not inspected and yet they are held up as shining beacons of educational excellence by 'those on high'...

radicalsubstitution Tue 21-May-13 18:26:49

Our 3 strongest teachers were not even observed

This comment really concerns me. For a school to be graded as Outstanding for teaching, observed lessons should be 'no less than good'.

If there is such a difference between the performance of its strongest and weakest teachers that 3 teachers make the difference in Ofsted grading from 1 to 3 then the school should not be rating as Outstanding for teaching in the first place.

The whole '3 levels progress' thing is very dishonest.

teacherwith2kids Tue 21-May-13 18:00:47


IME it did when that school was inspected - because they looked at PROGRESS and not (as Nynaeve's sister has) looked only at absolute final levels. Yes, a percentage of the children didn't get Level 4 BUT the progress that they showed - and the work that was going in to help those children to make that progress - was sufficient for a Good Ofsted grade.

FadedSapphire Tue 21-May-13 17:56:55

I hope Ofsted take such things into account teacher...

teacherwith2kids Tue 21-May-13 17:03:29

Nynaeve's sister,

But of course many schools don't have 7 years. Included in a school's results may well be children who have been there only a couple of years or less. Children who have attended 5 or 6 schools in total. Children in care or from families who move around a great deal or who arrive in mid-juniors with no English. Children with significant SEN - a school I have worked in had over 30% of children on the SEN register at any one time, even though the work put in to move children off the register through intervention was amazing. In a small school, 3 or 4 children with statements in a single class can make a big difference to the statistics....

TheSmallPrint Tue 21-May-13 15:55:11

Our school has just had it's Ofsted inspection and come in as Good. It has been Good for a long time but I think that it has vastly improved under the new head and so felt that they were hard done by. When speaking to the head she told me that she thought the result was correct as the grading has been changed quite a lot and now it is very, very hard to get an outstanding. On that basis, I think with our old head we may have been moved down a level.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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)

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.

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....

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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