Ofsted Reports

You can find all Ofsted reports on the Ofsted website.

Ofsted is the organisation which inspects schools, and makes a decision on how effective they are.

The way schools are inspected has changed from September 2012.

The inspection is carried out by inspectors, with various backgrounds. Some of them used to be Deputy Head teachers, Head teachers or advisers. Some of them still are, and they do Ofsted inspections at the same time. They have all received training in inspections, and many inspectors have carried out a large number of inspections all over the country, so they have much experience to draw on.

From September 2012 schools are informed of the inspection at midday on the day before the inspection. Prior to September 2012, schools were informed of the inspection from between two days and 24 hours in advance.

Inspectors carry out observations of lessons, observations around the school, talk to staff, pupils, and governors, and look at school data and documentation.

It takes about three weeks for the report to appear on the Ofsted website.

The Ofsted grades are

1 outstanding,    2 good,    3 requires improvement, (satisfactory prior to September 2012)     4 inadequate

In the inspection report, a school is given a grade for ‘overall effectiveness’, which is the most important grade. Then the report is divided into sections and the school is given an individual grade for each section.

If a school is ‘inadequate’ it could have ‘serious weaknesses’, (‘notice to improve’ prior to September 2012) or be put into ‘special measures’.

Special Measures

If a school fails its Ofsted inspection it is put into ‘special measures’. A ‘special measures’ school is one that is “failing or likely to fail to give its students an acceptable standard of education” (School Inspections’Act 1996).

Serious Weaknesses

If a school causes the Ofsted inspectors serious concerns is has ‘serious weaknesses’, but the Ofsted inspectors feel that the leaders and managers have the capacity to improve the school.

If a school’s overall grade is ‘inadequate’  it is doubtful whether currently it is the right school for your child. However, all other categories of judgement can be considered.

There are different views as to whether every Ofsted report is an accurate reflection of a school. However, in the context of this book, it would be rash to advise parents to send their child to a school with an ‘inadequate’ overall Ofsted judgement.

Inspection Regularity

If a school was judged to be ‘outstanding’ at its last inspection, it will not be inspected again, unless there is a decline in key areas, for example, achievement or attendance.

If a school was judged to be ‘good’ at its last inspection, it will be inspected again within five school years.

If a school was judged as ‘requires improvement’ at its last inspection, it will be inspected again within two school years. If, at this next inspection, it ‘requires improvement’ again, it will be inspection again within two school years.  If at thi next inspection, it ‘requires improvement’ again it is likely to be judged as ‘inadequate.’

Recent Changes

The nature of Ofsted inspections changed in September 2005, September 2009, January 2012, and September 2012. There are therefore a lot of schools whose most recent Ofsted report is not written according to the current framework of inspections.

Please note that if you are looking at a report published between January and September 2012, please follow the guidance below for September 2012 reports, although their format is a little different.

Differences between Ofsted inspection reports.

It was generally harder to get an ‘outstanding’ Ofsted result post 2009, than pre 2009, and far fewer schools have achieved ‘outstanding’ since 2009.

It is arguably even harder to get an ‘outstanding’ Ofsted result from September 2012.

Key Sections

Some sections of an Ofsted report are more important than others. The  key sections are listed here in order of importance.

Key Section 1:

Key Findings from September 2012

Main Findings from September 2009

Overall Effectiveness from September 2005

This is the most important section/ paragraph. If you read nothing else, read this.

The first sentence of this section/ paragraph assesses the school overall. Teaching , learning and behaviour are mentioned. Progress and achievement are described. If progress is recorded as being “good”, this does not necessarily mean that the school has high GCSE results compared to the national picture. What it means is that the school is good at adding value, and the students have good chance of reaching their potential. This section might tell you if the school is safe and caring, and what attitudes the students and staff have towards each other. The quality of the Head teacher and or leadership team will be summarised. This section often discusses progress in ‘personal development,’ which means how well students develop socially through their relationships at school. As a parent, you are looking for good progress in both personal and academic development.

This section might comment on how students progress in specific subjects, particularly if a subject was mentioned as weak in the last inspection. If an exception is made for one of the core subjects, then you need to explore what the reasons for this are.  If more than one of the core subjects are an exception to good progress, then this is a cause for concern. If the subject which is an area of weakness is a favourite of your child then this might not be the right school. If the subject where there is an area of weakness is the school’s specialism, for example, Science in a specialist Science College, then this is a cause for concern.


The grade for overall effectiveness is the most important in the report. You would be unlikely to consider a school for your child if this section had lower than a grade 3. It would not make any difference if the grades for the other sections were higher. If a grade in one of the other sections worried you but the grade for this section was high, then you should be reassured.

Key Section 2:

Quality of provision Teaching and learning from September 2005

How effective is the provision? from September 2009

The quality of teaching from September 2012

This section tells you what it is like in lessons, whether they are exciting, engaging, which lessons are better in which subjects, for which pupils and why.


Teaching is the bread and butter of schools.  If they do not do it very well, your child is not going to enjoy their experience at the school. A grade 2 or higher is preferable.

Key Section 3:

Achievement and standards from September 2005

Outcomes for individuals and groups of pupils – Pupils’ achievement   and the extent to which they enjoy their learning from September 2009

The achievement of pupils from September 2012

Standards and attainment refer to exam results and how they measure up to national averages.

Achievement or outcomes take into consideration progress. Progress is how far students have travelled from their starting points when they arrived at the school.

This section/ paragraph is likely to tell you what the standards of the children were before they entered the school, whether they were below or above the national average. Then it looks at the subsequent progress they have made and whether that is below or above the national average. A comment is often given on the achievement of different learners, for example, low attaining students, SEN students, gifted and talented students, or students from an ethnic minority.

All the exam levels will be covered, GCSE and other Key Stage 4 exams, ‘A’ Levels and other Key Stage 5 exams if applicable. It is important that the students excel at all stages,but the key year group to look for is Year 11. If achievement at the end of Year 11 is unsatisfactory, then this is a cause for concern.

It is important to find out whether results have improved year on year and whether students make good progress. This shows that the school is on a positive trajectory.

How the results measure up to the national average is interesting, however, it is important to note that the school’s results might have improved substantially and the students might have made excellent progress on the basis of their ability, and yet results could still be below the national average.

If there are any weak subjects that do not have improving results and students progressing, then it will be noted here. If a core subject area is weak, then this is a cause for concern. You would have to be reassured through a visit or open evening that steps were being taken to rectify the situation. If there is one weak subject area that is your child’s favourite then this might be a cause for concern. If there are more than two subject areas that are cited as not improving, then this is a cause for concern.


Some older reports have overall grades, and sub grades for this section.  The overall grade is the significant one.

If you want to send your child to an academic school where achievement is consistently higher than the national average, then only grades 1 and 2 are acceptable here. If your priority is that the school is improving, then grade 3 would not necessarily be a cause for concern if the paragraph was generally positive.

Key Section 4:

Leadership and Management from September 2005       

How effective are leadership and management from September 2009

The Leadership and Management from September 2012

This section is in a large part a comment on the effectiveness of the Head teacher. If the Head teacher is weak, then the grade here will be low. It discusses how good the Head teacher is at leading her staff and students, whether she has a vision which is understood and shared by all stakeholders, whether she is good at communicating, and whether good team work is in place. If things were good in the last report, you want to see that they have remained good in this one. It is a positive sign if phrases suggest that the school is on an upward trend that will continue, for example. It is a cause for concern if a core subject has not improved since the last inspection, for example, “standards in English have slipped,” but phrases such as “the school is working hard to remedy this” mean that you should not write the school off, but investigate further what their success in remedying the situation has been.

This section is also concerned with how good the school is at assessing its own progress and what structures are in place to ensure further improvement. It is a good sign if the school clearly has a capacity to improve.

In some versions of the report, resource management  or the issue of value for money will be examined.

Additionally the role of the governing body will be commented on.


Some older reports have overall grades, and sub grades.  The overall grade is the significant one.

If the grades elsewhere are very good, this grade is likely to be good too. If the grade here is lower, then this is not necessarily a cause for concern, as it demonstrates that the school does well, in spite of leadership concerns. If other areas suggest that there is room for improvement, then the grade here must be a 2 or above, because there must be strong leadership to lead the improvement forward.

Key Section 4

Personal Development and Well-being from September 2005

Outcomes for individuals and groups of pupils – 2nd paragraph  from September 2009

The behaviour and safety of pupils from September 2012

Pupil behaviour, attendance and punctuality are described here and attendance will be compared to the national average. If there are issues in one or more of these areas, then this is a cause for concern.

School exclusions will be commented on as will strategies the school adopts to cope with difficult students. You will find out whether Ofsted thinks bullying takes place, and whether the students feel safe.

Health, physical well-being and the quality of school meals will be commented on in older versions of  reports.


Some older reports have overall grades, and sub grades.  In this case, the grades for behaviour and ‘safe’ are the significant ones.

If the grade for behaviour is below a 2, you would need to be convinced by the standard of behaviour through other sources of information, for example, a visit or an open evening.

Key Section 5:

Description of school from September 2005

Information about the school from September 2009

Information about this school from September 2012

In older versions of the report, this section will tell you whether the school is oversubscribed and what kind of students attend. It might include how many students have free school meals. It will tell you what their economic situation is, their ethnic backgrounds, how many of them have special educational needs or other learning difficulties, what languages they speak and measure all these areas against national averages. If the school is a specialist school, if it works in federation with another school, if it has a breakfast or after school club run by an outside provider, it will tell you here. It will tell you if at the last inspection, the school was in ‘special measures’, or given ‘notice to improve’.

Further Sections

Front page from September 2005

Back and front page from September 2012

It is important to ascertain when the report was carried out. If it is over two years’ old, and it is nearly time for the school’s next inspection, bear in mind that things might have changed, particularly if there is a different head in post.

The report will be different depending on when it was published. It was easier to get an ‘outstanding’ judgement pre 2009.

The number on roll will give you an idea of the school size.


The introduction is fairly generic; it explains how many inspectors there were, what they did, and in older reports what were their focus areas. The focus areas do not give you a great deal of information. They are often simply areas where the inspectors felt they needed more evidence than the evidence they found in the school’s self-evaluation.

Capacity for Improvement (Pre September 2012 reports only)

In pre 2009 inspections ‘capacity to make any necessary improvements’ is graded at the end, in post 2009 inspections, ‘capacity for sustained improvement’ is graded at the beginning. In both reports it is written about in ‘general effectiveness’.


As a parent, you are looking for capacity for further improvement in future, as after all, that is when your child is going to be there. Therefore, ideally, this should be no less than a grade 2.                                                                                                              

Sixth form (Pre September 2012 inspections only) 

The 6th form may not be your first priority, but this section is worth a glance. If the 6th form is ‘outstanding’,‘very good’ or ‘good’ then you can put your mind at rest. If the 6th form is ‘satisfactory’ only, and you are imagining your child might be a student who stays on in the school post 16, then this might be a cause for concern.


In the post 2009 report the sixth form is given four grades; it is only necessary to take into consideration to main grade for ‘overall effectiveness’.

What the school should do to improve further from September 2005       

What does the school need to do to improve further from September 2012

This section will always be filled in. In virtually every school Ofsted will see room for improvement. However, the fewer points the better. If behaviour is mentioned, then this could be a cause for concern as behaviour issues impact on all students.

It is a cause for concern if all three core subjects, English, Maths and Science are named as needing to improve.


No grade is given for this section.


Curriculum and Other Activities from September 2005                               

How effective is the provision – usually 2nd or 3rd paragraph from September 2009

(Pre September 2012 inspections only) 

The report looks at what core and optional subjects are available for young people, examines whether there is a good range and whether the range matches the needs of the students. Both the curricular and extra-curricular provision on offer, and academic and vocational courses are described.


(Grade is for ‘The extent to which the curriculum meets pupils’ needs, from September 2009)

Look for a high grade here if you feel your child is going to benefit from a strong extra-curricular offer or if you are looking for a wide range of subjects including vocational qualifications.

Look for a high grade here if you feel your child is going to find it hard to cope with a conventional subject offer, and would benefit from a flexible curriculum.

Care, Guidance and Support from September 2005                                          

How effective is the provision from September 2009

(Pre September 2012 inspections only) 

The quality of the pastoral system and students’ personal development is commented on here. This section looks at the guidance the school gives students, for careers, options, sex and relationships, drugs education, and how good the institution is at dealing with transition between primary and secondary school. This section explains how well different groups, such as gifted and talented students and those with special educational needs are provided for. All categories of staff and their impact on students can be mentioned here such as learning assistants and learning mentors.

The following information is in this section for reports from September 2005, and in ‘How effective are leadership and management’ for reports from September 2009, and in ‘The leadership and management’ in reports from September 2012.

The effectiveness of assessment methods and target setting are discussed. Here you will find how hard the school works on its communications with parents and other outside agencies, and how it responds to emergencies related to health and safety and child protection.


This section has as separate grade in older versions of Ofsted reports. It is important if you value a supportive environment for your child. If your child has any special needs, for example, is gifted and talented or has learning difficulties, then you will be looking for a high grade in this section.

Annex B  – Text from Letter to Students explaining the Findings of the Inspection from September 2005

This letter is provided for the school…… – end of report from September 2009

(Pre September 2012 inspections only) 

This part of the report is interesting because it acts as a summary. Therefore, you can get a flavour of the report just by reading this. The letter will always begin with something positive, so that gives you an idea of the school’s most noteworthy strengths. For example, if standards of behaviour are highlighted at the beginning of the letter, then this is a good sign. Lessons will be mentioned, and you will find out here if they are interesting, and whether students enjoy them and work hard. In the latter half of the letter will be the inspectors’ causes for concern. If teaching, learning or behaviour are mentioned, then you would certainly need to read the inspection in more detail.


Annex A  – Inspection judgements pre September 2009 only

The important issues in these judgements have largely been covered by rest of the report. However, for a detailed analysis, see ‘Easy Guide – Annex A’.

Views of parents and carers post 2009 and pre 2012.  

This section consists of a short paragraph and a chart of responses. It is important first to see how many responses were received from parents. If there were only a small percentage of the whole, this tells you that the results are not representative, and it could also tell you that the school’s communications with parents are not very strong. It is important to take this section with a ‘pinch of salt’. Sometimes, parents with particular and not necessarily representative issues write in. The inspectors will have already gone through the responses, and fed any significant information into the rest of the report.


This is useful particularly for the inclusion of the percentage of schools and common terminology.

Further Information


The Ofsted website provides more information about the processes of an Ofsted inspection.

Case Study


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