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Reassurance needed!! School DS starting in has just been Ofsted-ed..

(51 Posts)
RainAndRoses Mon 21-May-18 20:27:27

Hi all.

So, back in January I had a massive dilemma over which primary school to put as our first choice. (If you want to waste some time you can see the 55 msgs here: www.mumsnet.com/Talk/primary/3138659-last-minute-indecision-on-primary-school-app-choosing-between-polar-opposite-schools )

Upshot was, went for the closer, more alternative, less SATs-y school (school B), even though on first look round had liked the local Catholic, very homework-y one on instinct (school A). Having finally made the decision got myself pleased about the choice, got a place confirmed in April, started to meet others with kids going there, DS excited etc etc. All good.

However, in this time the school has had Ofsted in, and I've just (last night) read the report. Has gone from Outstanding in 2014 to Requires Improvement. Many of the fears I had seem to have been confirmed by the report. Feeling quite glum about it all but also annoyed at being so affected by a report (I mean, the school hasn't changed). But, if this had been available at the time we made the decision I almost certainly would have gone for school A.

Reassurance??

OP’s posts: |
admission Mon 21-May-18 20:36:06

It really rather depends on what were the reasons why the school has gone from outstanding to requires improvement. If that is about poor results then this might be cause for concern but it might be something that is relatively easily fixed. It is quite likely that the school has got too comfortable believing that as outstanding they would not get an inspection and they have just been coasting. This might well be the kick up the backside they need to actually get back to being at least good as a school. So it might have come at just the right time for your son starting at the school and seeing the school improving.

user789653241 Mon 21-May-18 20:39:29

Requires improvement means it can only get better, unless school would give up and go worse, which is very unlikely. Also your dc is only starting. Not like your dc have spent years at school slowly declining. And you can always change school. Not the end of the world.
One of my local school was requires improvement at the time of entry for my ds. He got into "good" school. Now the school has turned around. The school used to be requires improvement is outstanding, with great overall results, while my ds's school is below national average. You never know.

Ionacat Mon 21-May-18 20:42:04

Just re-read the other thread. Firstly don’t panic, it is still the same school you looked round and the things you liked about it haven’t changed. It sounds like the head is about to retire and has taken their eye off the ball which I suspect will mean a change of head. These things tend to be turned round vey quickly as schools don’t want to stay as RI for long, and I suspect you’ll see changes very quickly. If the school has been consistently good in the past then it is likely to be a blip and things will change and it will be back at good again in a year.

RainAndRoses Mon 21-May-18 20:47:03

Thanks both. Yes, the silver lining is that hopefully this is motivating to sort out some of the things I had reservations about before i.e. might mean a much better outcome than if they hadn't had the inspection, as you say. Reason for re-inspection has been poor SATs results in the last few years. Other negatives in the report are regarding some year classes being poorly taught, not enough tailoring to what different children can do (so more able are not stretched) and maths teaching not being very good. And they got slammed on poor monitoring processes. On the plus they were complimentary about the reception year.

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RainAndRoses Mon 21-May-18 20:52:08

Thanks Ionacat. Yes, as I understand it they'll be reinspected within a year or two if got RI ? So could easily be back to good.

My guess is that they kind of fluked Outstanding last time, and they've had harsh inspectors this time. They've also had quite a turnover of staff I think (didn't know that in Jan).

Seem to be forgetting what the things were I liked about it, aargh wish I was less fickle!

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RedSkyAtNight Tue 22-May-18 08:04:32

I don't know your school, so can't provide specific reassurance.

I will however tell you that my DC used to go to a "Good with outstanding features" infants school. Parents loved the school, raved about teachers, the teaching, the range of activities on offer and how lucky they were their DC had got a place. Then we had Ofsted in and the school was regraded as "Satisfactory" (the grading that is now "Requires Improvement"). overnight the mood in the playground changed. There was a whole cohort of parents now saying how they'd never liked the school and saying they wished they'd never applied there.

The same advice applies to you, as to them - "It's the same school".

If your DC starts and there are things you don't like, then you can liaise with school to sort them, and look to move her as a last resort. Also agree with others who say that the school will instantly jump on the things that Ofsted picked up as flaws.

RainAndRoses Tue 22-May-18 09:05:25

Thanks RedSky. I know I know, this is why I'm also annoyed with myself. It must be terribly demotivating for the staff too. The tone the school took in reporting it to parents was good, in terms of using it as a learning experience etc, but haven't mentioned if they are e.g. having a parents meeting to discuss. Only about 15% of the parents filled in the Ofsted survey (which seems low to me, but they give you so little time). Not all positive.

My OH is more balanced in his response to these things but I am finding it hard to overcome my emotional response.

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user789653241 Tue 22-May-18 09:24:12

Only 15% filled in survey mean a lot of different things. Could be majority are not interested. Could be majority are generally happy and only people who have stronger view answered.
Sats results last few years were unpredictable due to curriculum change. Also depends on cohort, or approach by school. Some school's approach to sats I read on MN are mad, which must end up in outstanding results but with unhappy children.

Soulcakequack Tue 22-May-18 09:36:01

If the ofsted said reception is good then it sounds like your child is will be fine for this year. A lot can change in year and by the time they go to year one I bet there’s a lot of improvements.

However, if it was my child in this situation. I’d also get them on the waiting list for the other school. You might not get a place or choose not to take it if you do. But having the option seems wise.

fairymuff Tue 22-May-18 09:57:33

I'm a governor at a primary which recently went through Ofsted and I'm also a teacher at a different school so have experienced both sides of the coin.

Firstly, if the school's results have dipped, that triggers an Ofsted regardless of whether it was outstanding before. Ofsted have a pretty firm mindset of what a school will 'get' before they go in - schools have to work very hard to change that. Visits are usually 1 day but turn into a 2 day visit if the inspectors see something that could potentially change their mind - either way.

It's also heavily reliant on the Lead ofsted inspector themselves. The primary I'm governor at was heading for RI based on data but enough evidence was provided to get us a 'good'. The lead inspector was tough but fair and clearly liked everything else she saw in the school. Objectively speaking, the school is even better than when it was outstanding a few years ago, it's just the results dipped one year.

The feedback we got in the end of inspection meeting was quite a bit different to what came out in the report so if you like the school and your child has a good feel for it, I'd take Ofsted with a pinch of salt. I've worked in places with different ofsted grades and I can honestly say that the outstanding ones often have worse flaws and are less child centred than those with lower gradings. Go with your gut instinct about the place and have some conviction to support the school, if your instinct tells you it is right for your child.

Toomanynamestoremember Tue 22-May-18 10:36:45

I was in the same situation. My DC started in a ‘Good’ school which was solid and grounded, children were happy and well behaved. Within 6 months the Head retired and a new one was appointed. Very quickly it all went downhill with the school going into special measures in the space of 2 years. Only now, 5 years later the school is showing signs of improvement (with a new Head).

For my DC, problems started in Reception (academic related). But he didn’t seem unhappy, had made friends, the school was literally round the corner. So it took me another 4 years of things getting worse and worse to take a decision to move him to a CoE ‘homeworky’ tough-disciplined School. Knowing what I do now, my advice to you is don’t hang around waiting for it to get better, it may take an awfully long time to improve and may be too late for your child. I sat there waiting for 5 years only to reach absolute rock bottom. If I were giving advice to me then, I would get onto the waiting list for that Catholic school now before your child’s education is compromised any further and move at the earliest opportunity. It is my bitter regret I procrastinated so long which resulted in my DC being 18months behind in his learning at the start of Year 5 when we finally moved schools. Don’t wait for it to get better, you will be kicking yourself in years to come for not taking action sooner. This is from my bitter experience.

RainAndRoses Tue 22-May-18 10:40:15

Thanks Soulcakequack - that's kind of what I'm thinking, but feeling disloyal to do it.

Fairymuff, that's incredibly helpful. From the impression I get both in the report and the way the school talks about the process the inspector was trying to find the problems/errors, very little praise e.g. for anything innovative they try to do. I think part of the whole issue is we're not actually at the school yet so it's very difficult to tell. I had quite a lot of reservations about it (in that long thread before), but also saw many of the positives. In the end a big factor was it was our nearest school, and with an emphasis on the creative. I think the head is quite 'proud' not to be obsessed with SATs but it feels in this case this has led to quite a negative outcome, unfortunately. Does feel they have been resting on their laurels a bit?

Was the feedback you got in person more or less negative than the report then?

OP’s posts: |
RainAndRoses Tue 22-May-18 10:55:47

Interesting Toomanynames. Ah the power of hindsight. It's difficult to tell isn't it, a school may turn it around, or may continue to decline..

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MyTeapot Tue 22-May-18 11:01:01

Ofsted reports probably tell you as much about a school as SATs tell you about a child.

user789653241 Tue 22-May-18 11:02:14

Not sure, Toomany. If your ds is in yr5, same age as my ds. There was phonics screening. There was ks1 sats. Plenty of time to recognize inefficiency of school. 18 months behind at yr5 is unacceptable for average children. But could have taken action a lot earlier, which will be the option for OP, since her dc is only just starting.

user789653241 Tue 22-May-18 11:12:12

After being at "good" school for years, I think "requires improvement" school may work better for parents/children. They need feed back. They need to change something. They might be more willing to listen to parents for suggestions. All of those wouldn't likely to happen with school with good/outstanding ofsted, simply because they think they are doing everything right.

BlueChampagne Tue 22-May-18 12:52:44

Hang on till you see details of the report, and the school's response. This may inspire greater confidence, or cause you to decide to move.

Toomanynamestoremember Tue 22-May-18 14:05:54

irvine, yes of course there were the screenings, but the school did such a good job of smoke and mirrors that us parents were oblivious to the extent of the problem. Especially the school being good previously, with a good reputation. The management minimise and deflect and conceal when the situation is bad. They aren’t going to be honest with the parents as to how bad exactly things are. Until they could not hide it any longer in our case and the failing Head got sacked, trouble shooters in and the works. This was the point many parents knew truly how sh*t things were. Many were complacent going on past experience, or waiting for things to improve. My point is don’t make that mistake. It takes YEARS to turn the school around. In all this time, it is your child who will be collateral damage. And it is harder to catch-up the longer it is left.

RainAndRoses Tue 22-May-18 15:40:20

Oh dear Toomany, sounds like a bad experience. BlueChampagne, have seen the full report. Is not totally awful (e.g. sounds like some classes were judged to be good but some weren't) but not great reading (pretty negative about leadership and governors), and as I say feels like it 'confirms' my niggles from before. BUT with a kinder inspector who was looking for positives, or not having been slow to react to the new SATs, perhaps they'd have been given good. One just can't predict the future. Could be a blip, could be a symptom of general decline which as Toomany says could take a long time to pull back up.

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Mamamamamamamam Tue 22-May-18 20:04:12

OP you sound exactly like me. Agonised over 2 schools for months, chose the closer/more rational one rather than going with gut instinct, STILL agonising now and I’m on the waiting list for the other! So I feel your pain as it takes much less than that to upset me - even just a chance comment on one of the schools from a friend is enough to make me doubt everything again! So I will pass on the best words of comfort I’ve received:

The 2 most important variables are almost impossible to control or predict anyway: 1. Will they happen to get a teacher they get on well with? 2. Will they happen to be in a nice year group?

3 wonderful things will happen at either school: 1. Your dc will have the opportunity to learn to read, write and count 2. Your dc will have the opportunity to play with other children 3. Your dc wlll have your support at home, and it’s clear you take their education very seriously so that will make a huge difference. These 3 things are the most important things.

There is no right choice as we can’t see the future. There are people on here who went with their equivalent of school A and now wish they’d put B and there are others who went with B and wish they’d put A. That proves you can’t beat yourself up over your choice - you have done and are doing your best!

I’d agree you might as well go on the waiting list for now just to keep your options open.

NotAnotherJaffaCake Tue 22-May-18 20:09:04

Have you thought about being a governor at school? You get to know a huge amount about the school and can really help shape the direction of travel. I did this before my kids started school, and it meant that I had a great idea of where the school was going. Meant I had the confidence to send them to an RI school. We’re now officially Good and one of the better schools in the area.

RainAndRoses Tue 22-May-18 20:12:49

Aw thank you so much!! I'm glad am not the only one.. OH fairly negative about going on waiting list for the other one as we have no concrete reason (ie DS hasn't experienced a problem there). I enquired today and there are 2 other kids on waiting list for reception start. Is only 1 form entry. Don't know details of where we'd come on the list. Half of me would like to go on the list just to have the option (possibly/at some point in the future), half thinks can't really do that if OH not keen.

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PerfectlySymmetricalButtocks Tue 22-May-18 20:14:14

Ofsted reports can be utter bollocks. My DC's school got a dreadful report and has subsequently been academised, no one who knew the school recognised it in the report.

RainAndRoses Tue 22-May-18 20:24:37

Thanks JaffaCake. It's a good idea (although honestly no idea where I'd find the time!!). When I'm feeling calm, I do feel the most rational response is to try to work out what I/we can do to support the school. I mean, if everyone did that that would surely lead to the best outcome for all concerned. However really depends on the overall coordination of response (not saying this would at all be the case here but if you're the only one pulling it doesn't really work!). So maybe a lot depends on how other parents are gearing up to help.

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