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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?

CaterpillarCara Thu 05-Sep-13 18:57:42

This is the best answer: "I would not advise Ofsted as your ONLY source of information about a school. Just that completely ignoring it, in favour of even less well-founded information, seems like overkill! It's from putting together scraps of information - Ofsted, league table sorted by value add (not by absolute results), any truly knowledgeable parents, an in-depth personal visit etc - that the best possible picture can be obtained."

A few years back, my children were at a school which got an unexpectedly low Ofsted grade. There were several public meetings about what they were doing about it. Keep an eye on their website, if they are holding something go along and listen, see what you think.

Tanith Thu 05-Sep-13 18:15:04

If it helps at all, "Requires Improvement" used to be "Satisfactory".

There are several things that have happened since the school's last inspection. We have a new Government and Education minister; Ofsted have been privatised and have a new, much more politically active head; the criteria for Outstanding has been made much tougher; staff and schools are demoralised to the extent that their unions are organising a strike later this year.

Lots of schools and Early Years settings are being downgraded quite dramatically.

Read the report, visit the school and see how you feel yourself about how they do things and what is said. The Ofsted report is just a fraction of the input that will inform your choice: don't let it assume more importance than it deserves.

12345Floris Thu 05-Sep-13 17:35:21

Ignore it. When I applied for my son's Reception place his school had been Outstanding since 2008... but they only graded it again in 2013 and it went 'down' to Good. Report mentions unusual transience of teachers and that may have affected the standards. But as 4 out of 6 teachers left, on closer research, you discover the reasons were plausible ones - pregnancy, moving abroad, career ambition, etc.

It's my nearest school and having looked around the place the Ofsted grade is of no interest to me. I try to remember that I went to a Catholic primary on (what was then) a Watford sink estate, and my partner ditto equivalent in his town, yet we have both gone through the education system fine.

junkfoodaddict Sun 01-Sep-13 16:09:50

Curlew - Though parents have not witnessed lessons, they certainly have more contact with a school than an OFSTED inspector. Lessons are inspected for only 20 minutes and in that time a teacher's ability to teach, children's ability to learn, achieve and their overall attainment is judged.
The inspector who came into my lesson (judged good with some outstanding features) was apparently able to tell me that my children's attainment was good, they achieved above expectations and my teaching was described as good. Yes, she gave me some pointers to make it outstanding (it had to do with my TA, but it all depended on whether the TA did as I asked - she didn't!). As it turned out, I made a huge error on the reading material and the inspector didn't even see it yet she felt qualified to commend me for the different ways in which I presented the reading and the content of it!!! On another OFSTED inspection, the team presented their findings about a Y3 class when it was a Y4 class.
That is why I cannot take an OFTSED report seriously. If ours are flawed, how many more are flawed?

teacherwith2kids Sun 01-Sep-13 16:00:00

For all those reasons, I would not advise Ofsted as your ONLY source of information about a school.

Just that completely ignoring it, in favour of even less well-founded information, seems like overkill! It's from putting together scraps of information - Ofsted, league table sorted by value add (not by absolute results), any truly knowledgeable parents, an in-depth personal visit etc - that the best possible picture can be obtained.

And even then, you might choose the 'best school' at a single point in time, and it might be the year that the Reception teacher falls ill, the head leaves, half the SLT retires and there may be a sudden requirement to increase the size of the school by half (or even, in the micro environment of the classroom, a particularly disruptive pupil might affect your particular child's learning). Schools don't stay static, they are evolving communities

teacherwith2kids Sun 01-Sep-13 15:51:13

(Spat in the head's face, screamed at staff, forgot things from one moment to another, demanded things they already had and had a meltdown when told that, just shouting louder and louder that they needed it and if it wasn't provided the school would fail..... )

teacherwith2kids Sun 01-Sep-13 15:47:32


It of course depends on the size of the school - when a small school is inspected, because there are fewer classes then inspectors do see full lessons, often several by the same teacher. I was lucky (got away with most of 1 lesson) but one of my colleagues was observed for 4 hours in total over 2 days!

Would entirely agree that it does depend on the team / the individual inspector, though. I do know of one school inspected where the staff described the lead inspector as 'apparently insane'!

Hulababy Sun 01-Sep-13 15:39:52

Yes I understand that. I guess those some parents do have a clearer insight into how individual schools work though ESP those with children in different year groups, or friends using the school in diff years, an obviously working in re same sector locally will always help. Ofsted is definitely not all bad -my own school recently went up from 3 to 2 with lots of outstanding features and it was thoroughly justified - but they are limited. There really is not the time for inspectors to see everything and is very hard to make clear accurate judgements based on 20 min on a classroom midway through a topic or project ESP in terms of how much very single child is making progress. That really needs far longer periods of observation and taken over a longer time period such as weeks. But reality is ofsted are in for a couple of days or so, see fragments of lessons and dot really see the full picture. Therefore they are limited in what they are judging on.

And you know - the inspectors vary loads too. Sometimes you can have a really great team, others can be dreadful. Have experienced both and the latter means no matter what you do your doomed.

tiggytape Sun 01-Sep-13 11:44:17

Hulababy - I am not disagreeing with your professional opinion or friend's opinion of the school at all and such an opinion is great to have.
I was more pointing out the advantage Ofsted brings giving a broader view. A parent can know what to look for and be happy with their own child's exeperience and yet still not know the current ins and outs of every year group.
For example if your friend's child has just left Year 6 she may or may not be up to date with whether Reception and Early Years experiences are as good now as they were when her son was in them 4 or 5 years ago - that personal part of her experience could be several years out of date.

I am not saying parental opinion is worthless, especially where the parents have professional experience of schools, just that it can be hard for even the most involved parent to have a broad and up to date experience of every teacher in every year group covering every additional need and type of child.
Parental opinion is great for judging many aspects of a school (and Ofsted in fact canvas parental opinion too) but Ofsted has a role to play for those parents who don't have friends 'in the know', for those who haven't worked in schools and can compare or know what to look for and and for those who want to know how a school handles particular things that are important to them that may not be relevant to others they speak to eg gifted and talented, additional needs etc.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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......

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.

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!

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!

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.

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 23:22:44

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.

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?

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