School Inspections ‘Toxic’.

May 7th 2013

A leading think-tank, ‘Demos’ published a report today which suggested that the way Ofsted inspects schools does not lead to improvement. The report suggests that Ofsted inspections in their current form

  • lead to a break down of trust between school staff, school leaders, parents and governors
  • inspect the wrong things and focus too much of exam results and league tables
  • do not improve schools.

The ‘Demos’ report suggests that there should be an alternative model of inspection, which takes greater consideration of information from school staff, students, parents and governors.

How does this affect how you choose a school?

  • Ofsted inspections ask parents to complete an online survey called ‘Parentview.’ This has been recently introduced, and, for some inspections, it is the case that not many parents respond. Parents can complete ‘Parentview’ at any time, not just prior to an inspection. It is worth looking at the inspection report to see how may parents have responded.  In the new reports, which came into operation from September 2012, information about how many parents responded is in the section ‘Information about this inspection.’ In some of the older reports, there is a separate section on ‘Views of parents and carers.’ 
  • At the beginning of an inspection, all parents are sent out information about the inspection, and are encouraged to contact the lead inspector if they want to.  The lead inspector is required to contact all parents who request direct communication.  In some inspections, lots of parents contact the lead inspector, in some they do not. In the new reports from September 2012, it gives the reader information about how many parents made contact, under ‘Information about the inspection.’
  • During the inspection, inspectors will talk a lot to pupils about the school. It is invariably the case that pupils are honest about how well the school is doing.
  • Inspectors will always meet with governors during an inspection.
  • The Ofsted team will take into consideration evidence provided by the school. They will be informed by the school’s own self-evaluations, and plans.
  • It is undoubtedly the case the Ofsted only inspect certain things in a certain way.  The focus of inspections now is largely about how well the pupils make progress, from when they arrived at the school, in their learning.
  • Ofsted inspections provide an external view of the school. Parents have a right to have an external, professional view of how well schools are doing.
  • Sometimes, schools are not assessing themselves accurately.  Sometimes, schools need an external assessment to redirect them.
  • Ofsted inspections provide a ‘snap shot’ of the school. They should always be interpreted by parents along with other sources of information, for example, first hand experience through visits etc. However, they are an important ‘snap shot’ and give parents a good overview particularly of how well pupils make progress.
  • It is certainly the case that many teachers and headteachers feel negatively about Ofsted inspections.  They do not feel they are fair, and they feel that inspections impose a framework on them that does not fit.  However, often teachers are influenced by the very negative coverage Ofsted gets in the education press.
  • Often teachers will say how terrible Ofsted is, but the inspectors that came into their school were actually alright.  A lot of myths about Ofsted are perpetuated among teaching staff.
  • There is not a culture in this country where schools necessarily are open to external inspection.
  • If a school is failing its pupils, so they are not making good enough progress, or are not safe. The Ofsted inspection framework is sometimes the only mechanism which will be able to identify these failings, and make sure something is done about them.
  • There is a robust complaints process, if schools are unhappy about their inspection.

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