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Would you be concerned about Ofstead report?

(59 Posts)
2isamagicnumber Fri 30-Aug-13 18:41:54

My understanding of ofstead reports is a bit limited so wondered if anyone can share their thoughts.

The local primary school where my son will start in 2014 has just had a terrible ofstead report. They have gone from grade 1, outstanding, in pretty much all areas to grade 3, requires improvement.

Obviously I am concerned as to the dramatic change. Has anyone sent their child to a school where this has happened?

teacherwith2kids Fri 30-Aug-13 22:27:44

Also, and this may sound really obvious, but parents generally only have experience of the school that their children go to. They are not in a position to compare, and often feel that because they choose to send their children there, they should defend their choice IYSWIM. Or they may grumble because of an issue affecting their child, with no knowledge of whether such a problem would be better or worse dealt with in another school.

Whatever Ofsted's faults - and it can be used politically, especially for secondaries in LEAs with few academies - haveing an external view on a school IS useful.

ihearsounds Fri 30-Aug-13 22:29:15

Oh I pay little attention to Ofsted. The school I work in is outstanding. Has been for many years. It's a joke. I wouldn't trust an inspector as far as I could fling them. Even less so because our head is constantly telling us about the conversations with various ofsted people who are high up. Maybe I am just very sceptical because of this. Never mind that our head is constantly preaching to us what to say when we get an inspection. How to have the class laid out, springing surprise visits on us from various people as practice. This is just a part of the kiss arse that is involved in getting outstanding.

Then there's even more kiss arsing to come that will include the pta. Come September if the pta are as much use a chocolate teapot this will reflect on the school, but in schools where the pta is excellent and teaching/management/support is shite they will grade slighter higher because of the pta... It's a sham.

Then there's the schools that were excellent, suddenly not so great, now an academy because yea this fixes the issue, and surprise, surprise the academies are also failing.

Can you tell. I am a massive fan of the ofsted grin

teacherwith2kids Fri 30-Aug-13 22:35:03


So in the perfect world WITHOUT Ofsted (and believe you me i don't love it either), how is the average parent on the street, with no specific knowledge of education, to gain any idea of how their school is doing in comparison to others, not just in terms of results (which are primarily a function of intake and may tell you very little about what the school actually does) but also wrt the teaching, the leadership, safety, behaviour etc?

'Gut feel' is, of course, important. But a school can feel very lovely indeed and teach its children almost nothing.

BlackMogul Fri 30-Aug-13 22:38:51

I am going against the anti ofsted rhetoric here too! A parent visiting a school can never pick up what experienced Ofsted inspectors are seeing. The paperwork is usually evidence that children are making progress and that teaching is based on assessment evidence gathered by the teachers. If you read a current Outstanding report for another school you will see where yours is deficient. The question is - can they improve? Ofsted clearly thinks this is a problem. The school should publish its improvement plan and you can see how they intend to improve. Lots of teachers still dislike Ofsted but for the sake of our children's education, it is important that all teachers are good or outstanding and it is up to Headteachers and Governors to ensure this is the case. This report will have nothing to do with lack of paperwork in the trivial sense. It will probably be lack of meaningful assessment of children's work and use of that data to plan lessons. It could also be classroom management or poorly paced and planned lessons. This can seriously stop clever children making the most of their time at school. You will never be able to suss this out by a parental visit. Also poor attendance is usually a feature of an under performing school. Parents do not support it and children do not attend regularly enough. If children miss lots of school, they under achieve. Therefore they do not make sufficient progress and so Ofsted are not impressed!

teacherwith2kids Fri 30-Aug-13 22:42:32

But, tbh, I see no particular distinction between 'Good' and 'Outstanding' - as in, I would have absolutely no hesitation in sending a child to a Good school and it would depend on the individual school as to whether I would pick / recommend a good or outstanding one. Some Outstanding schools are so obsessed by their grade that nothing else seems to matter, least of all the children - others are almost accidentally outstanding because they have been focusing on to get the best out of their children.

ihearsounds Fri 30-Aug-13 23:05:56

How did parents assess schools prior to 1992?

teacherwith2kids Sat 31-Aug-13 08:44:06

As HMI only reported to the Secretary of State, not publicly, I presume (I wasn't a parent at that point) that the choice was made
- On nearest school
- On local reputation where a choice was available
- On results

Do you think that parents made better school choices before Ofsted was available - as in, did all parents, in all kinds of areas, have the information that they needed to choose the school that would give their children the best education? Do you think that parents had the information that they needed to differentiate between schools with poorer results who were doing brilliantly from low base points, and those who had good results only because of a very good intake?

Certainly as a pupil who attended multiple primaries in pre-Ofsted days, the quality and expectations of pupils in schools was wildly variable. As I moved between schools, I was moved up years when it transpired I had already done all the work planned for my 'normal' year - and moved down again when moving to another school with different expectations....

lljkk Sat 31-Aug-13 10:09:48

DC primary was Satisfactory for 7 yrs before gaining a Good rating few months back.
I can't see any difference in DC experience at the primary before & after.
DD is about to attend an Outstanding High sch while DS will attend a "Good" HS. I CAN see differences, BUT my gut feeling is that most of them have to do with calibre of intake. Will update in a yr when I know better.

nennypops Sat 31-Aug-13 13:47:13

I would rather look at results and what other parents say. My neighbour's daughter worked as a support teacher at a local school. When Ofsted came, she had to step in to take over a class whose teacher was off sick. She found that the other teacher's marking and lesson plans weren't up to date and had to work past midnight every day over the preceding weekend to sort all that out. The school ended up with a "Good" rating, including a finding that behaviour was good: however, it really isn't.

Another friend who is responsible for art in her school told me about a long discussion with an Ofsted inspector about why she said that art was improving and developing. She cited lots of evidence in terms of quality and variety of artwork, improved displays, increased take-up of art club etc, but he kept asking "How do you know?" till she had a bad headache. When she discussed it afterwards with her headteacher, she was told that what the inspector wanted was a mark book with a row of increasing marks so that he could tick the box marked "Evidence" and it really didn't matter if she made the marks up.

teacherwith2kids Sat 31-Aug-13 14:58:07


But results can be (largely) a function of intake - hence why sorting the 'league tables' by absolute scores and by added value give COMPLTELY different orders. And other parents only have knowledge of their own school for their own child and are unlikely to be wholly objective about an institution that they have chosen to send their children to (I mean, I have wholly different views of THE SAME school for 2 different children only 2 years apart and roughly similar in ability ... how different can another parent's view be of a school for their child, of a different age and possibly quite different from mine, also coloured by the parent's own view on what is important in education...

I know that Ofsted isn't perfect. In some cases, it is used for political ends. Some inspectors have insufficient knowledge or experience of the type of institution that they are inspecting (in most cases they work in teams to try to balance out this issue). Some schools play games, because they believe that they know what Ofsted is looking for (these games are not always successful).

However, having a report on a school, against specific benchmarks, from a team of people who have visited many other schools, is of value in the decision making process. Not the only thing of value, but of value.

Certainly of much MORE value than context-free results data - is a school good because its results are good IF the nature of its intake is such that in fact the results should be excellent (but aren't)? Is it poor because of lower results, despite the fact that over 50% of its children start school way below expected level for their age? Are good results obtained through endless rote learning to the test, or are lessons interesting and engaging (OK, Ofsted only view a snapshot - but they also ask pupls whether this is what lessons are typically like, and pounce when there is a disparity)? That's what I read an Ofsted report for - the text, the chat, the non-numerical information, the context that tells you about progress, which is what a good school should be about.

To take a concrete example, our local grammar (taking children in at high Level 5s, at minimum, at the beginning of Y7) gets 100% A* to C including English and Maths at GCSE. A comprehensive I know of, in a very challenging area, gets 45% A* to C including English and Maths ... but that is from a starting point where well over 50% of pupils arrive with Level 3s or below in English and Maths. Which is the better school? Where do the children make better progress?

breatheslowly Sat 31-Aug-13 23:22:44

We've had a couple of schools locally which were outstanding and have had recent satisfactory/requires improvement ratings. Both have had problems with getting/keeping headteachers, but now have recruited heads who look like they will stay and sort the schools out. My DD has 2 years until she starts school. Having given this a lot of though, I actually think this could be a positive for DD who is due to start school in 2 years. Instead of joining a school that is coasting gradually downwards, resting on its laurels from the 5 year old outstanding grading, she will be joining a school on the up.

2isamagicnumber Sat 31-Aug-13 23:43:47

Thanks for everyone's opinions. I don't currently know any parents with children at the school so can't gauge their opinions.

Trying to think positively part of me agrees with breatheslowly. At least my son is not due to start until next year so it does give time for the issues to be addressed.

I have also heard that ofstead will be back at the school in February.

breatheslowly Sat 31-Aug-13 23:53:22

I didn't know anyone with children at our local school, but I met a parent in the playground who was able to fill me in on one of the schools. If bumping into someone to ask doesn't work then try MN local boards.

junkfoodaddict Sun 01-Sep-13 07:52:10

I do not take OFSTED reports into account when choosing a school. My school was graded 3 because 2 temporary teachers and 1 supply teachers were graded 3 in their teaching and a 21% increase in 2 years wasn't seen as 'good enough'. The inspector admitted the inspection was political and that we were never going to get a grade 2 because the inspection was done in SATs week and weeks before the results were known. He knew that we were on target to get good results but he seemed fixated on thse 3 teachers. Nevertheless, our results came (87.9% in reading and writing and 81% in maths), our writing was externally moderated TWICE, we had our visit from our monitoring inspector who was 'shocked' at our grading and said we had achieved our targets for October already and to 'give her a ring' if we needed amy help or advice!?!?

On the otherhand, my child's local schools (all 3) are graded as Outstanding (grade 1) and I have doubts as to whether I want my child going to 2 of them because they are known to be pushy with the academics, less favourable with the SEN kids and several parents of children with SEN have been 'forced out'. Not an Outstanding school in my view!

exoticfruits Sun 01-Sep-13 08:07:24

I would visit the school on a normal working day- make sure you see everything and go with a list of questions and see whether you get satisfactory replies.
I am sceptical about Ofsted- you can do very well with perfect paperwork. I know a Head who got outstanding for leadership and yet is a nightmare to work for and not too good with children but is a whizz at the paperwork!

wheredidiputit Sun 01-Sep-13 09:01:59

If the school in a category then it will have another visit in about a year to check on improvements are being made.

For example my dc school previous visit was 'good'. The last Ofsted visit (under old scheme) was put into 'require improvement.' having sat through a Governor meeting the inspector was very bias towards the school. Within 6 months we had an interim visit and the inspector would have taken us out of category if he could. The most recent inspection we are now 'Good with outstanding features'.

There have not been any major changes to teaching with in the school but the inspector took notice of the children backgrounds (deprived area, lots known to various agencies) and the progress the children are making.

One of my children went to an 'outstanding' school for nursery provision and there was no way she would have gone to the school as it was the most unwelcoming/friendly place. Every told me not to send her to the school she is at. But atmosphere within the school is very welcoming and friendly.

So no I wouldn't take an Ofsted report as the be all and end all of information about the school.

curlew Sun 01-Sep-13 09:07:40

It always amuses me when people dismiss the findings of 3 professional people who have spent two days in a school, watched lessons across the year group, read parental questionnaires, looked at all the paperwork and talked to the Head in depth, but are happy with listening to a parent they met in the playground who filled them on all the local schools......

breatheslowly Sun 01-Sep-13 10:01:47

Curlew - in my case a parent in the playground was able to put the Ofsted report in context in terms of school leadership and provide an update on the school leadership in the year that has elapse since the report. That isn't dismissing the Ofsted report, just recognising that the report is a snapshot of that particular time and that the report is, understandably, unable to explain the personal circumstances of the HT.

Similarly I knew from friends that the other school that has recently been downgraded was certainly not an outstanding school for the whole of the 5 years between the outstanding report and the satisfactory one.

exoticfruits Sun 01-Sep-13 10:05:22

I wouldn't dismiss it on the parent in the playground! I would treat it with a certain amount of scepticism and see for myself. I haven't been too impressed by some of the 'professional' people who have spent a mere 2days in the school.

tiggytape Sun 01-Sep-13 10:15:39

junkfood - it is a good thing surely that great results don't necessarily equal a great Ofsted grade? We are in an area where probably 30-50% of all pupils are privately tutored for grammar school exams for anything upto 2 years. These children get fantastic SATS results (well they would) but that's nothing to do with the schools. Sometimes in fact they achieve well despite the school.
The same applies to easy catchments. Some schools will have exceptionally small, affluent catchment areas with heavily invested parents, excellent support, children who start school able to read etc. These children will achieve well just from being at such a strong starting point. If the school adds nothing to their progress then it is not a good school despite a string of grade 4 and 5 SATS in year 6.

Similarly, I have seen several complaints that Ofsted came in the first / last weeks of term or assessed supply teachers who don't count so it is all unfair.
But the reality is with 6 half terms a year, schools should be steadily paced. There shouldn't be 6 gentle introductions and 6 long wind down periods where little is done or everythign is disorganised.
Ditto supply teachers - on the basis that they have been employed to teach whole classes, they should be good at their job. Somebody's children will be taught by them and the fact they are only temporary doesn't make it O.K for them to be less good than the other teachers who weren't assessed.
If 3 staff are not good in a normal sized primary school then this is a fairly sizeable problem for at least 90 children. It doesn’t matter that they’re only passing through and Ofsted are right to highlight this.

wheredidiputit Sun 01-Sep-13 10:20:12

Why would you take what 3 professional who look at reports that do not take into account the background of the children and only take into account the 'national average child' and how they compare. And not the parents whose child go to the school and they see how it is on a daily basis.

curlew Sun 01-Sep-13 10:57:38

"Why would you take what 3 professional who look at reports that do not take into account the background of the children and only take into account the 'national average child' and how they compare."

That's not what they do. The stats are much more complicated than that.

tiggytape Sun 01-Sep-13 11:00:36

One of my children has been all the way through primary and the other is still at primary. My experience for each and my perception of the school for each is different because each child had different teachers (some vastly better than others), different personality traits, different strengths and different needs.

Some of the other parents over the years have raved about the school in a way I have not quite understood - really gushed about it. Others have detested it so much they have left. I am not in the classrooms during lessons and I haven't sent them to 5 other schools to compare and see if they would have got on better off there.

I am a longstanding parent involved with the school for nearly a decade but really my opinion is still based on very limited experiences of my own children's personality and ability types with nothing else to compare it to.

Ofsted do take into account a child's background and starting point. More now than ever in fact which is why schools with easy intakes who've rested on their laurels a bit are finding the new regime much harsher. Ofsted of course also have the ability to personally witness lessons in a way most parents don't after Year 2 (when parent helpers tail off) and compare them to other schools in a way most parents can never personally do since many children don't change schools once let alone numerous times.

Hulababy Sun 01-Sep-13 11:20:49

Know of school in question and have asked friend who's child has just left y6 and was there all way through. Will reply via PM later but for some reason not letting me via phone.

Safe to say though that her and her son's experience there was all very positive. They've just got very good y6 results and all feels v good. They def still recommend the school. Think downgrading in ofsted was a surprise.

Hulababy Sun 01-Sep-13 11:30:30

By the way the parent I know with a child at this school is also a primary school teacher herself. She's done a fair bit of supply over the past years too so has seen and worked in a number of schools in the same area. Likewise I work in an infant school not too far away and have friends with children in local schools as well.

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