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How do you as a parent use an Ofsted report?

(51 Posts)
onetiredmummy Fri 07-Feb-14 13:49:48

I'm in the middle of deciding to move my DC's to another school. Current school is Requires Improvement, both potential schools are Good.

I read the Ofsted reports to get an idea of how the school is performing.

However on MN I constantly see that Ofsted reports are regarded as box ticking excercises & not a true reflection of the school. If that's the case then is there any use trying to use them to make an informed choice about a new school (also viewing the school as well obviously). There must be a point to Ofsted but if its not trustworthy then do you disregard it totally?

AMumInScotland Fri 07-Feb-14 13:56:03

Read it.
Think about what things get good or bad marks, and compare those with your own attitudes/priorities.
Compare what the report suggests with what you see when you visit.

They aren't worthless, but they are one specific set of things, which may or may not have a strong correlation to what matters to you as a parent.

temporary Fri 07-Feb-14 13:56:27

In your situation, I would look to make sure those 'goods' are done under the new framework, (so, I think the report would be dated over the last couple of years). If the school gets good on that basis, then it is plenty good enough and I would forget Ofsted and be looking at other criteria that are personally important to me.
So if both those schools are recently graded good, go and visit and ask questions based on your priorities, and think if you like the feel and the head etc and use those to make your decision.

Gladvent Fri 07-Feb-14 13:58:39

I have always ignored Ofsted reports - for nursery, infant school and junior school selection. I've always visited and based it on that.

TheGreatHunt Fri 07-Feb-14 14:07:19

Read the words. Also ask other parents. I found visits are not enough!

DeWe Fri 07-Feb-14 14:16:59

I would look at the Ofsted at areas that interest me.

For example there is no point me looking at the fact that they teach 6 different languages. That may be great for some children, but it won't interest others. I am interested in that they have 3 different type of music clubs because that interests my dc.
Offering extra classes in maths for those who need extra help wouldn't benefit my dc, children with SEN being looked after well does interest me for dd2 (and to a certain extent ds).

Then it's look round the school, feel of the school, and other parents' comments.

And when you look round a school, I unpick the positives they say. For example they offer many extraordinary trips (as one school I saw) become irrelevant when it;s a school of 300+ a year and these trips are offering each to 2 children maximum-chances are your dc will never be invited on one.

redskyatnight Fri 07-Feb-14 14:20:38

If there are points on the Ofsted that concern you, ask the headteacher about them when you go round the school.

e.g. DD's school Ofsted reported mentioned that the school did not stretch the more able writers - but it turned out that the school was addressing this issue and had lots of strategies already in place to resolve it.

lljkk Fri 07-Feb-14 14:35:06

I just realised I never looked at Ofsted last 2 x DC changed school. blush.

If I did look I'd only look at headline stuff. I trust parental gossip & visit feel much more.

craftynclothy Fri 07-Feb-14 14:44:17

I tend to do a quick read through to see if anything jumps out at me as a concern. Other than that I go for the feel of the school.

For example, we visited an Outstanding school when Dd1 was applying for nursery. The teachers didn't interact very much with her at the open day and they didn't seem very welcoming (I suspect they were happy to rely on the outstanding rating to draw parents in). I knew it wouldn't suit dd1 and we ended up going for the much closer Good school. At their open evening they played with the children and made a big fuss of them, the head spoke to parents and I felt it was a much nicer environment.

BackforGood Fri 07-Feb-14 14:45:12

I too trust what other parents say and the 'feel' when you look round.
My experience of OFSTED is that they aren't worth the paper they are written on - they come in with a narrow focus on whatever it is they have been told to focus everything on that term, and ignore all the real evidence before their eyes of what actually goes on in a school.
Reading the text of the report sometimes gives you a better idea than just looking at the grading, but I'd really trust talking to people a LOT more.

Retropear Fri 07-Feb-14 15:04:53

I'd look at behaviour and progress in the report alongside looking at the Ofsted data Dashboard to see a break down of Sats results compared to similar schools.

Retropear Fri 07-Feb-14 15:09:32

Oh and I wouldn't go on trust and feel tbh.

Parents aren't education experts(although some like to think they are), yes neither are Ofsted however Ofsted reports can pick up some pretty accurate faults,ours certainly did. Our school has it's good points but it also has it's negatives and I'm so glad Ofsted highlighted them.

Nocomet Fri 07-Feb-14 15:11:47

I think Ofsted reports make good fire lighters.

DD's primary that went from good to satisfactory and back to good.

Their secondary that went from good with outstanding features to satisfactory, to spending a pointless very stressful year in special measures.

During all this time both schools did a perfectly acceptable job of teaching pupils, sorting out bullying, running clubs and trips, getting DCs through SATs and GCSE.

All Ofsted did was cause worry, stress and cost both schools money in terms of lost pupils and the senior school money paying for all manner of consultants angry

admission Fri 07-Feb-14 15:25:31

You very definitely need to be sure that you are considering apples with apples. The latest Ofsted inspection regime has been in place for 12 months, but there have been minor tweeks since then. Look for a new inspection report and the front page will tell you why it is not yet good or not yet outstanding and is probably a good precise of the school's strengths and weaknesses.
There is now much more emphasis on governance at the school and schools are being put into inadequate or requires improvement solely on poor governance. Requires improvement roughly equates to the old satisfactory and actually says more clearly what the score is, you are not a good school and you need to up your game.
The other point is that some schools in past regimes were outstanding based on attainment standards. Under the new regime it is quite possible for the school to have good overall attainment but because the pupils when they entered the school were higher achievers for the actual rate of progress to be low. Those schools are now being found out.
Read the reports and compare if they are comparable but then visit the school. There is nothing better than going and seeing the school in action on a school day. If you get the right vibes then that is probably the school for you.

BackforGood Fri 07-Feb-14 15:28:06

Retropear - has it never crossed your mind how flawed SATS results are as a measure of a school ?
Doesn't account for the amount of time, energy and fantastic work that goes on including children who are never going to get SATs at Levels 4 or above.
Doesn't account for the boost you get in scores when you have a cohort of parents who are paying for their children to be tutored outside school

crazymum53 Fri 07-Feb-14 16:13:23

I would look for Good teaching and Leadership at least level 2 on report and also at Behaviour.
However I would also check how recent the report was and staff turnover. One school we looked round for dd made a big deal about it's Outstanding OFSTED report from the previous year and it turned out that the Head and many senior teaching staff had since left the school!

mrz Fri 07-Feb-14 16:42:16

shredded it makes good hamster bedding

Retropear Fri 07-Feb-14 16:43:54

Back yes(I was a teacher and did Sats). Sats cover all levels and level 5s are just as important as 4s.As I said I'd look at several things,not just Sats but I would still look at them to get a full picture.

If a school has a strong intake and weak Sats sorry but all the lovely extra curricular activities in the world won't take away from the fact that a certain amount of progress should be made.If level 4 children have made good progress from their starting point it will be in the report ditto the level 5s.

Our school had not so hot progress(pretty strong intake), weak Sats etc.After Ofsted the arrogance has started to go,you get listened to more and according to latest letters progress and other areas I had noticed and worried about are improving.

If schools from the same area with similar children are achieving higher,I as a parent want to know.

So Sats,progress/behaviour in an Ofsted report and Data Dashboard are what I'd look for.Op asked.

Yes strong leadership and management are really important too.I'd be wary if they didn't come out as good or above.

ContinentalKat Fri 07-Feb-14 16:55:59

I would definitely look at a bundle of things: ofsted and how long ago it was done, visit with very open eyes and ears, sats results, progress. What kind of people send their kids to the school? Are they your kind of people, or are they too snobby/religious/poor/musical/whatever floats your boat? Ask them for their opinion.

Retropear Fri 07-Feb-14 17:03:24

And if you're supposed to reject Sats,Ofsted reports etc I'd love to know what parents should use instead to make an informed choice instead.We're looking at secondaries and neither really float my boat so I kind of thought looking at Ofsted,exam results etc might be helpful.

Gate side gossip and lovely displays may cut it for some but not for me.Sorry.

HappyMummyOfOne Fri 07-Feb-14 17:07:07

We looked at the SATs results, FSM data, teaching and behaviour on the Ofsted report. A visit is great but its only part of the picture.

breatheslowly Fri 07-Feb-14 17:12:36

It's part of a jigsaw of evidence for me. Part of what I am looking for is how widespread any issues are. As an example, the school that DD is likely to go to had problems in the teaching of a year group according to Ofsted. Looking at the school's website, there is a letter to the parents of children in one class in that year explaining why they have had a bumpy time (not ideal, but fairly unavoidable) and what they are doing to improve things. So that isn't an issue for DD as it will not be an issue when she is there and it is a fairly isolated issue. More of an issue in the Ofsted are general issues around governance and how the school deals with particular cohorts of children - these seem to be pervasive and may be harder to fix.

BackforGood Fri 07-Feb-14 17:49:32

By all means have a look, but be aware that all statistic only show a very small part of the picture is what I'm saying.
I'm surprised you dismiss other parents' opinions so readily - if I talk to 50 parents of people already at the school, and 49 of them think the school is great / awful, then I know that carries a lot of weight for me. There will always be one person/family that has a different opinion, but I'd ask what made them form that opinion, as, after all, we know that families differ in what they want from a school. Obviously, when chatting, I'd ask them about particular things that were important to me. I'd also use what I'd been told to help formulate questions to put to the school when I did my visits.

starballbunny Fri 07-Feb-14 17:57:10

In DDs small school, with 15 DCs in a year group. One bright lad, one RG/Oxbridge graduate's DD(mine) and two senior school teachers DD = school getting SATs results that got the school it's Ofsted good reinstated.

(DD1's lovely, but less academically confident group lost it).

It is an utter farce.

By all means read Ofsted reports for background info and interesting tit bits, but don't look just at the headline result.

MillyMollyMama Fri 07-Feb-14 19:34:19

I do not think Ofsted is a farce. Most schools requiring improvement are not judged on one set of outcomes, ie not so good SATs in one year. If those children had been well taught and had made extremely good progress, there would be no requires improvement. The worrying things would be poor teaching, poor learning, poor leadership and governance and high staff turnover and instability.

In contrast, when choosing a school, I would expect good leadership and to see children making good progress because of good teaching. I would expect parents to be warm and enthusiastic about the school but many mistake a school with a caring ethos to be a good school, regardless if it's teaching and learning qualities. When did Ofsted fail a school for not caring about its pupils? Nearly every school is pretty good at that.

Parents cannot possibly judge good teaching and learning by looking round! Many parents at the school gate have no real knowledge about that either! So many parents believe their children to be learning well, but Ofsted find this is not borne out by achievement and measurable progress. This is where Ofsted reports come in handy and, it has to be said, if a school has become complacent, a "requires improvement" outcome does give a massive impetus to improve. It can also make the leadership ensure that curriculum leaders are on the ball, that class teachers are good or better, that their teaching is monitored and the progress of each child is monitored too. It can ensure that lessons are differentiated and planned appropriately. It can make sure a school actually does its best to enable all children to make good progress, the bright and below average.

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