Oftsed reports - true indicator of bad/good?(49 Posts)
We are looking at moving to a new area where the only schools nearby all 3 are Ofsted "Requires Improvement" how much of an indicator of good/bad school are the Ofsted reports?
Area is East Bracknell/Martins Heron for what it's worth
Its fairly easy to work out which schools you are talking about. The Ofsted reports are always going to be indicators of the state of the school at the point of inspection but things can change rapidly. All three schools appear to have had new or relatively new head teachers in post at the time of inspection, so whilst they might not have been inspected again so far they could now easily be working at a "good" level. The opposite is also possible!
I would visit all three schools if at all possible and see what you think of them, you might be surprised at how much you like them.
I would read the reports and see what they say, and the schools response.
Firstly the failures might be in an aspect that doesn't effect your dc so much-if their Sen area is brilliant, but they don't stretch the top end for example, then either might effect you-or neither, or both.
If the school's response is along the lines of "it's not fair, it's just wrong, it was just a slight blip year in a decade in brilliance, they sent mean inspectors" then they're not trying to improve and is a big red flag.
If the response is "we've just got a new head and we already knew that to be weaknesses and we're working hard to change" then go and have a look and ask questions.
I did hear of a school that was inspected on the first day of a new head. That to me was a waste of their time, as the school was surely going to change.
As a governor who has attended training on Ofsted inspections, the current inspections pay a lot of attention to progress of the children over time and what the school has done to recognise shortcomings and improve the school. Therefore it is no longer a snap judgement of teaching a class and what they see when they are in the school. Everything they look at is to back up the data they already have.
When you visit, if a school is keen to tell you about improvements and answers your questions openly then I would trust them. Read the reports carefully and ask questions about the report findings when you visit. It is rare for one area of teaching to be brilliant and another to be useless. They are usually shades of grey. Most adverse inspections will affect your child at some point. I would also be very wary of a school that is RI repeadly and only improves temporarily. If it has a long record of good reports then it may well understand how to improve quickly. It is rarely a quick fix, especially if it is poor teaching and poor progress.
Whether there is a new head or not fits not really matter because if it was poor then the children have been failed. Ofsted will judge if s new Head can improve the school and this would be a difficult judgement.
In my experience, Ofsted reports usually contain a mixture of fair judgement and too-rapid judgement. They can't be relied upon as sole tools for working out everything about a school, but as a rough guideline you would be foolish to ignore them.
As I understand the current Ofsted method of working, they look at the school data and then look for evidence in the school and supplied by the school to support the data, or in fact, see that the data is a blip. If all the evidence provided by the school does little to make the inspectors believe that the school is well run and the children make good progress, (and at times evidence provided by schools is very poor) then it may well require improvement. They will visit lessons, look in books, look at assessment data, talk to the Governors, consider the views of parents, look at the curriculum, look at the starting points of children, consider the teaching of the brightest children and SEN children etc. I think the latest inspections are largely fair. The visits can be fairly quick if the evidence supports the data. Longer inspections usually occur when there may be more explanations required of the school and more evidence to be gathered to supprt a judgement.
Therefore reading the report, in detail, is crucial to see what is wrong. Also, schools write detailed improvement plans. Any school which is RI should be able to tell you immediately the main areas for improvement and give you a brief outline of how improvement will be achieved.
I'm early years not primary but for what it's worth I think it's just the quality of the show you put on on the day. I'd read the reports and see what they've said they need to improve on and what's already good and make your decision from there.
How much of a fake show could be put on though? And given the encouragement the parents get to comment etc. when the inspectors arrive, how would the show mask negativity in those responses - presumably used by inspectors to ask.
You could "put on a show" of happy engaged students, but if every parent report said their kids were unhappy and bullied and making poor progress, the inspectors would be pretty negligent to fall for it.
I'm sure some chosen tailoring to what you show the inspectors would happen - you're not going to show the inspectors into a classroom and try and engage the unhappy inarticulate disruly kid. You're going to pick the articulate, friendly "bright" kid, it's possibly a good thing that the SLT showing the inspectors around knows who will help put on a show.
The inspectors choose the classes they want to visit. They come virtually unannounced. The call is that day! There is so much rubbish talked about prep for Ofsted and showing the best of the school. If you are not doing a good job, day in day out, there is no way this can be masked by wheeling out a few articulate children. Does anyone really think that experienced educationalists and teachers/heads/advisors that are inspectors do not see past that, even if it could be done? They are looking for evidence to back up data they already have, and are not directed by Head Teachers into the "best" classes when they clearly want to see why the data shows poor performance in other year groups! As if! They do not speak to one child. They talk to quite a few. They delve into everything and so they should. A Head is just not in a position to mask anything. That is why schools are RI and worse. Because you cannot hide!
It's hard to judge tbh. I'm a teacher and would be very wary of basing a decision about my child's schooling purely on an Ofsted report.
Some schools are much better at manipulating the data and box ticking so that they look good for Ofsted but are not nice schools. Some are the opposite. The worst school I've ever taught at had just been rated outstanding in the summer when I started in September. I arrived to find my department was lacking a head of department and had three teachers unqualified to teach the subject. It was a data factory. Staff and pupils were stressed and miserable. Several schools near me now have been absolutely panned, largely because they don't have a perimeter fence and probably can't afford to erect one.
Witchend makes a good point about the devil being in the detail.
I wouldn't judge on the overall grade alone, but I would read the detail of the report.
I work in special needs and there is a clear correlation between schools with oustanding OFSTEDS being schools with terrible reputations for catering for the needs of children with SEN generally and complex needs especially. That would be very relevant if your child has special needs. But note I said "correlation" - that doesn't mean every school fits into that stereotype.
Absolutely not. I have taught in 'outstanding' schools that I would NEVER put my child into (can't emphasise how awful it was for all involved). And the best school ever which was graded 'inadequate ' where the children were happy and excited to be there, really enthusiastic about school and had a beautifully rich curriculum. My advice is to read the actual report rather than just go on the grading, and decide which bits are important to you. Oh and get a feel for the school by going on visits.
bojorojo my DD's school was inspected recently, we were told the day before that they were coming in with a letter from the inspectors and encouraged us to comment on the parent view site thing. So everyone certainly knew they were coming.
In DD's class YR1, the inspectors who came in with an SLT member, and did only talk to one kid in that class, but yes I still don't think that any of this is likely to make a difference to any competent inspector.
One day's notice. You really cannot manipulate much with one day's notice. Usually an inspector talks to a group of children on a table. You were not in the class though so your DD could be wrong!
The Ofsted Inspection Handbook clearly says talking to "pupils" when inspectors obtain evidence. It says pupils repeatedly. An inspector would not get a balanced view talking to one child. I suggest it makes very informed reading in the event of an inspection! For parents.
In any case, it rather depends on whether your idea of what makes a good school for your dc matches with what Ofsted thinks makes a good school. Which it might not.
Thanks for all the thoughts, an interesting read. I suppose an Ofsted is very much like an MOT, a view of the school taken at one point in time that may not always reflect what it is like now (for better or worse..). I will read the reports in detail. The hard bit is knowing whether things have been improved or not but looking at Harman's Water one they seem to have made improvement steps since their original 2015 Ofsted, need to see for Crown Wood and Holly Spring what the latest is.
ofsted reports are useless meaningless garbage. Getting an "outstanding" indicate the management are more concerned about pleasing ofsted than they are about education. Getting an "inadequate! can be for as little as a security guard not checking the identity of an ofsted inspector on the forth day of their visit, having checked it diligently on days one, two and three.
I don't think the reports are always accurate and can depend on the inspectors and what they are looking for at a particular time. The reason I say this is that two secondaries in our area have been put into special measures (in the last two months) and another one warned they might be too, all based on 'security and accessiblity'. Which seems odd as this wasn't an issue for any of the schools in the last reports.
Obviously the reports are claiming other things but it has similar schools scrabbling to add new fences/gates/door locks for fear they will be targeted in the same way.
I'm not saying the security isn't an issue, just trying to point out that sometimes it doesn't have much to do with the teaching.
If a school was marked down on safety and security then I am assuming it would say that in the Ofsted versus says pupil achievement? The couple of reports I read said things about measuring pupil KS2 results against national averages, something which I guess you can't "fake" on the day. Teachers must dread the day the Ofsted inspectors rock up...
The text of the reports is worth reading so you know what questions to ask the schools. Other than that, ignore the ratings.
I know two primaries and a nursery which got Outstanding that I wouldn't send a child to (the primaries might be OK for a nice undemanding typical child with no SEN or outstanding peaks/troughs of ability).
The Satisfactory/Good/RI/Good place was pretty much the same throughout all the different ratings and was probably at its best when it didn't have the Good rating.
Ofsted do not warn schools. They arrive, inspect and deliver a judgement. Lots of myths about inspections still alive around this thread.
Ofsted would be more like an MOT if they did not have lots of evidence and data over several years before they turn up. This is why schools that are showing they do not get enough progress from the children are likely to have an early inspection compared to those whose children fly. This is why some schools are inspected fairly reguarly and others may not have been inspected for 8 years.
Since 2015, the inspections have changed to look at far more data. Any inspection prior to late 2015 is not under the current handbook. Therefore a report from 2013, for example, may be rather useless if there has been a complete change of staff and the school has 50% more SEN children for example. Recent inspections are far more reliable for any parent and the school improvement plan arising from an inpsection is very important to improve what may be wrong. Also, parents want different things from schools. Parents at small village schools like the "family atmosphere" but fail to notice their children make slow progress because they have bought into the ethos of the school rather too much. They may value that side to the school, but Ofsted will look at far more hard evidence. Any school that thinks they can wing an inspectinthese days without knowing about pupil progress in some detail, is just fooling themselves.
Security and accessibility is a very unusual reason to be SM. As you say, August, the report "claims other things". All these other things were innaccurate then? How do you know this? Have you looked into the data? If other schools really think a school failed on locks and gates they are sorely mistaken. It is just tittle tattle I'm afraid. My guess would be some poor teaching, assessment, lack of progress progress and leadership were also in the mix. I would love to know the details of any report that put a school into SM due to site security and accessibility (presumably of disabled pupils/staff) but found excellent teaching, superb progress and fantastic leadership. I think the "other things" were significant but you have chosen to ignore the obvious shortcomings. Ofsted didn't. Regarding security, schools that have high absence rates, pupils absconding and pupils who are removed from school to go and get married may well have security issues that need to be addressed. Depends on the school. Any Ofsted training for Governors always flags up the flavour of the season. At the moment it is PP spending and outcomes and value for money.
When you look at the schools, User 453, check to see what their progress is like on the Govt web site. Ask the Head for details of how they teach Maths and English. Look at some books. Ask the Head what the current challenges are. Do they have a largely stable staff with a blend of experienced and younger staff? Ask what they have done to improve. How successful has it been? They should be open and honest with you. Try and see some teaching. Does it inspire you?
Of course Ofsted reports aren't perfect, as inspectors are only human and thus aren't perfect either, and no inspection will ever be able to capture everything about a school, but it's completely ridiculous to say they're not worth the paper they're written on. Nowadays a vast amount of data and information is required to be on the school's website (Pupil Premium Grant expenditure, Sports Premium Grant expenditure, results, curriculum, policies etc) and the inspectors will completely have familiarised themselves with all of this before arriving and will know what they will be probing.
You can't fake good results or progress overnight. You can't miraculously get all your teachers to deliver good or outstanding lessons when they're normally terrible. You can't make sure that all your staff understand the safeguarding policy if they really don't. You can't suddenly manufacture 10 years of parent satisfaction questionnaires or pupil satisfaction questionnaires. You cant bribe all the pupils who might be questioned to say the right thing.
There might in practice for you not be too much difference between a local Good and a local Outstanding school if you prefer the setting, headteacher's ethos and vibe of the Good school, but there will be a significant difference between an Inadequate school and a Good school or a RI school and an Outstanding school.
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