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How often are Ofsted inspections?(15 Posts)
I'm looking at local primary schools and can see that most have had a variety of full/interim inspections usually a few years apart, with most being last inspected a year or so ago. They are all rated as good.
However, there is one local school rated outstanding but the date of its last inspection was 2008. Would it really have not been inspected for ten years? That seems a long time to assume it will maintain its standard.
Anyone in the know who can advise?
Yes it’s possible for an outstanding school not to have been inspected for a long time. Outstanding schools are exempt from routine inspections.
As you say however, how can you assume it is still outstanding?
Ofsted are likely to inspect outstanding schools if results / performance drops significantly. I think an inspection can also be triggered by parental complaints but am not 100% sure on this.
One thing to be aware of is that the inspection framework has changed significantly since 2008 so a school that was outstanding under the old framework may not be graded as outstanding if it was inspected tomorrow under the new (current) framework.
Short answer is you won’t know if the school is any good until you go and have a look and get a feel for it, and / or until you send your child there. However my guess (based on experience of working in this field) is that the school is likely to be good or perhaps very good (as long as it has a decent head teacher who has kept on top of things, and has decent staff and a board of governors that properly hold the school to account). For LA schools governing board minutes should be publically available and this might tell you more about the school than a ten year old Ofsted report.
But to be honest, my advice would be to go and visit the school and see what you think. You’ll get a much better idea of whether it’s a good fit for your child from a visit rather than any amount of paperwork or reports.
Tbh it’s correct but moronic that they are exempt. One of our local schools is outstanding and there is no way I would send my child there and with the amount of children leaving I think feeling is similar for people actually attending.
Outstanding means they don't get the routine visits anymore.
I wouldn't pay much attention to Ofsted grades personally - I pulled my kids out of a school that was very recently given Good... I don't know what the fuck the inspectors actually inspected but it sure as hell wasn't my kid's everyday experience in that place! The school we moved to I went to look around as they had a good chance of spaces in the year groups we needed - and I burst into tears leaving the building as I just knew it was completely the right fit for them.
Thanks everyone. So what am I looking for when I visit? Or will I just 'know'?
I chose a primary school for my son that had been graded outstanding by Ofstead, our experience of the school was not a positive one.
The bullying that went on in the school both from the children, the staff & parents was disgusting, my son is ASD, frequently came home covered in bruises from being hit & kicked by other children, he came home with his neck badly bruised & grazed from where a child had tried to strangle him. On every occasion I rang & complained, the school denied bullying was taking place stating my son saw things "differently" because of his ASD. When we got the ASD diagnosis, I gave school a copy of the report from the psychologist, they totally ignored all the recommendations even when I got the specialist Autism team involved. When the next inspection took place any "problem" pupils were conveniently taken on a trip to keep them away from the inspectors, any negative comments about the school on any of their social media pages were deleted & the posters were blocked from posting. Ofstead reports are only a snapshot of a school's workings, they don't give a true picture of what really happens. Trust your gut instinct when you go to look around, a school may only be average but may be a better school in real terms of care & education.
What sold our second school choice for us (first time around I just went for "the local school... they can walk there... playdates nearby" and all the other stuff MN says usually and it was an unmitigated disaster) was when we looked around all the kids absolutely flocked to see the Head walk into their classroom, give her huge hugs and show her what they'd been doing - and she knew absolutely every child's name and their interests and quirks. Plus there were things like toys clearly visible and role play/home corners in all the classrooms up to Y2 (it's an infants) and not just in Reception then very very formal in Y1 upwards.
Plus I think you can get a load of a feeling for the place if they put newsletters online and you look at a couple off the website - the tone they use in them and what they're trying to promote. Our old school was basically a list of whining about the parents' latest Things They Had Done Wrong and which educational fad the school was plugging that week... this one it's really really relentlessly positive and I like that - plus the main photo on the school website is kid in a puddle suit making a mud pie with the hugest grin on his face going! (Old school was a nice carefully selected ethnic mix along with one child with a hearing aid prominently positioned so you could see it - gathered around an iPad)
As you may tell - I really really really like my kids' school - the staff are bloody superb (I'm jealous of just how flipping good the ones I've seen in action are to be honest - DD2's Reception teacher is bloody amazing... I'm really really jealous of how good she is)
Agree with the others to trust your gut instinct. A few things I’d look out for:
Do the kids look happy (not just compliant and well behaved) but genuinely enjoying learning
The quality of displays of pupils work on the walls (tatty displays suggest it’s not important to the school to value the kids work or celebrate their achievements)
Who shows you around. Does the Head know the children, do the kids engage with the Head, are they happy to see them, keen to show off their work etc. If it’s children showing you around I would take this as a positive sign as it suggests the school values and trusts the pupils to ‘sell’ the school well.
When the Head does their speech to prospective new parents is it positive, does it include reference to more than just the academic side of life (extra curricular ops, trips, creative curriculum, how they support kids with SEN etc)
Red flags to me are things like whole year groups being out of school on open days. Might be a coincidence but it’s a well known tactic, that used to be used years ago in the days when Ofsted gave weeks of notice, to get rid of ‘troublesome’ kids on a school trip or work experience. Also if there’s no opportunity to visit classrooms when kids are in there I’d be asking why, could be that the quality of teaching or class management is poor so they want to avoid parents seeing this.
Outstanding schools can expect OFSTED if their results dip.
That can lead schools where the leadership is not overly confident to focus very much on keeping Y6 SATS results up at all cost. If they can just keep the results up, then all the other things that may be going wrong/leadership may be insecure about, can remain hidden.
And this again can lead to Y6 being an exam factory, all about preparing for SATS, all 'learning to pass exams' rather than learning 'stuff', highly pressured for the kids, and even cheating (which is negative for the kids as inflated KS2 SATS results will lead to over-ambitious expectations for GCSEs and thus pressure and a feeling of 'failing to achieve predicted targets' throughout secondary school).
It might even, in some cases, lead to 'weaker' students being 'managed out' (life just made uncomfortable for them, so that eventually parents choose to move them to a different school).
Also, a school that hasn't been inspected since 2008 has clearly had very good results every year for 10 years. Now consider which parents will choose to send their kids there, despite the lack of any recent OFSTED. There will be a lot of parents who really care about results (and a few who chose it for other reasons, like proximity; and a minority who don't care about OFSTED/results). Now what if these parents notice that learning isn't too great, their child is falling behind, or not doing as well as they'd expected? They get help for the child, private tutoring etc. That then means that the school may be continuing to be getting great results despite actually sub-standard teaching. So even the point 'well at least I can trust the school to achieve good results' isn't really a safe assumption.
DS is at a 'last Ofsteded in 2008 outstanding' school. Since the new head came in 5 years ago, nearly all staff (teachers and TAs and office staff, even the caretaker) have left. Importantly, not a single Y6 teacher has lasted more than a year. The results though have always been great. This implies, to me, that the great results are not down to 'fantastic teaching' in Y6, as there were five successive teachers who can't all have been fantastic teachers, so there must have been something else at play, IDK, pressure of some sort, but something clearly that made the Y6 teachers unhappy and caused every single one of them to hand in their notice by the time their class was sitting their SATS.
Also I can confirm that even a large number (>20% of school population) of consistently and exclusively very negative parent opinions on Parentview (see OFSTED website) will not trigger an inspection. The lack of inspections does not indicate that parents have been happy with the school.
Thanks everyone, this thread is so insightful and confirms what I thought, that a 'feel' for a primary, children who look happy to be there etc, is more important than reports and results.
I would ask how they deal with toilet accidents (even if this isn't really a concern with your child). The answers can be illuminating. If they don't have enough TA support then it can cause problems - and a few schools seem hell bent on being difficult about this (totally to be expected) issue. I think how they deal with this tells you something about where their priorities are.
I have visited loads of primary schools through work and I have yet to see hoards of unhappy children! That’s really a bit of a red herring. I think you need to see purposeful children. YR really is not all about play. Learning should be taking place so are children doing phonics, doing maths and experimenting with water and weights and measures for example? Are there examples of their art displayed? Is there evidence of books being available and learning themes? Does the school give you a curriculum overview each term? How are parents involved with learning? Are children confident? Do they get to do any drama or music?
However a school chooses to market itself via the web site, this is still intended to be appealing to parents! If muddy faces floats your boat, great, but it might be a turn off for others. Some children hate mud! It is perfectly reasonable to have a photo of a child with hearing difficulties if you have a hearing loop in school. Schools also try and put “inclusive” pictures on their web sites. It says something about them.
Try and look at how the clsssroom(s) is organised and see if your child would thrive in it? What are the behaviour expectations? Are children engaged and busy or crying and whinging? How many seem to need a lot of help?
I do agree a Head should know the children but I’ve never met a Head that didn’t! It’s their job! Nearly all young children want to please the Head and they are often a pied piper figure around school! I would be slightly more interested in how the teachers conduct themselves around the children. They spend a lot of time with their teachers and “quality first” teaching is what matters above all else. Poor teaching almost certainly guarantees poor progress of children. Most ofsted “good” schools have competent teachers and you know they will be addressing any shortcomings found by Ofsted if the inspection is recent. You can ask what they are intending to improve at the school. If you hsve noticed the Sats results are below average in msths, you would expect them to say they are working to improve how they teach maths. This could be a “fad” but it could be introducing first class practice into the classroom. A good school will gave known what theyneeded to improve before Ofsted turned up!
Read letters home, maybe go to sports day and see if their ethos is close to what you want. If everything’s ok, you will find a great school!
I do agree a Head should know the children but I’ve never met a Head that didn’t! It’s their job!
Old school one who couldn't function without the kids being in a pre-arranged line in order where she had the names and a crib sheet to talk about them from the class teacher. Got my daughter's name completely wrong 3 times in an email replying to a fairly serious complaint which showed just how seriously she actually took it when she couldn't be bothered to find out what child it related to.
Oh and since you're determined to pick holes in my post - no hearing loop.
Our head couldn’t even get my sons name right... was very annoying.
DDs infant school got an outstanding at the end of 2008 and hasn't been inspected since. Unfortunately I think it is riding on this reputation and isn't an outstanding school at all - I wish they had been inspected in the last decade!