How do school oversight and intervention systems impact on parents? Audit watchdog wants to know.

Janet Downs's picture
Do you have a school age child under 17?

If so the National Audit Office wants to hear from you. The watchdog, which is independent of Government, is seeking parents' views about "how school oversight and intervention systems impact on parents and pupils".

The NAO won't be able to identify parents who complete the survey but the results will be summarised in its report for Parliament.

Parents can complete the survey up to 20 April 2014. It takes about 15-25 minutes to complete and is available here.
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John Mountford's picture
Fri, 04/04/2014 - 18:07

Did this, Janet. Very unimpressed and not convinced 'it does what it says on the tin'. I would love to have the lowdown on 'how the impact of school oversight and intervention systems on parents and pupils' can be assessed from the questions asked. Hope that someone's got a handle on this!!!

The other interesting feature of this kind of survey is just how easy it is to nobble the outcome with erroneous/exaggerated entries (lying). If this happens on any significant scale, what does this do to the findings? I wonder if the results will carry a health warning to this effect. We'll see in time, I guess.

Beth's picture
Fri, 04/04/2014 - 22:39

John, its a parents' survey, and the first question is "Do you have a child or children under the age of 17 who attend/s a state school?". Sorry to be personal, but given the information on your website, you presumably answered "no", and were then told "Thank you for your interest but we are interested in parents’ experiences of the state-funded school system." Or did you answer yes in order to test your point about erroneous entries?

Of course you're right, it could be nobbled. But it's hard to imagine why anyone would want to do that on any grand scale.

I suspect its trying to find evidence to suggest parents don't care about Ofsted reports, and my concern is that the questions might be biased towards a false positive on that. On the bit where you had to rank your 5 most important ways of measuring your children's school performance, I didn't list the Ofsted report as one of my choices, because, having been a parent there for several years by the time they were inspected, it didn't tell me anything I didn't already know about the school. However, if I was looking at the school from the outside it would be one of the first things I would look at. I also look at the reports for other local schools to see how they compare, and will certainly use it as a tool for choosing secondary options. So, Ofsted reports are very important ... there was just no opportunity to highlight that in the survey, because it was focussed on my own children's school rather than others.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 05/04/2014 - 07:02

John and Beth - thanks for the info about the questions. I haven't got school age children so couldn't take part. I have, therefore, no idea what the survey asked.

I started a Mumsnet thread about the survey and one poster raised the same concern about nobbling the survey. Her worry was it would be bombarded by teachers uneasy about surveillance. That's the problem with surveys open to all - there's no way of ensuring the sample is representative or whether respondents are who they say they are.

John Mountford's picture
Sat, 05/04/2014 - 07:50

Beth, my 'did this' remark should have mentioned that it was done by my daughter and related to her eight year old son. I guess looking over the shoulder could be frowned upon, but there we have it. The points I made were for the benefit of readers to LSN and still stand.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 05/04/2014 - 09:57

John - your points started me thinking. I've emailed NAO to ask:

1 How do you ensure the respondents are a representative sample?
2 How can you prevent people completing the survey who don't have children?
3 Wouldn't it have been better to have let a firm like You Gov run the survey using a representative sample of parents?

I'll post any reply here.

Beth's picture
Sat, 05/04/2014 - 11:07

Janet, I've copied the questions below, which will hopefully help de-mystify it for you. While a small number of people might fill it in mischievously, nobbling a national survey takes some coordinated effort and it's hard to imagine which group might wish to do that in this case (e.g. a lobby group for promoting extra-curricular activities in schools?).

Like I said before, I think its main aim is to determine how relatively important Ofsted Reports are to parents, and, reading between the lines, also whether they think they're accurate.

1.Do you have a child or children under the age of 17 who attend/s a state school?

About your child’s school
If you have more than one child under the age of 17 who attend different state schools, please answer the questions in relation to one school.Once you have completed the consultation, please feel free to click on the link again to answer the questions in relation to a different school.

2.Is your child’s school:
Special school
Alternative provision or pupil referral unit

3.What type of school is it?
A local authority maintained school
A converter academy
A sponsored academy
A free school/ university technical school (UTC) or studio school
Don’t know

4.Is the school:
Primary and secondary all through
Don’t know

5.What was the outcome of the last Ofsted inspection of the school?
Requires improvement or satisfactory
Don’t know

6.Overall, how would you rate your child’s school?
Very good
Fairly good
Fairly poor
Very poor

7.Please indicate which sources of information you find most useful to rate the performance of your child’s school. Choose the top 5 with 1=most useful, 2= second most useful and so on:

What my child says about their experiences at school
How happy my child is about going to school
The feedback my child gets from teachers on their work
My child’s teachers staying the same or leaving
The head teacher staying the same or leaving
The grades my child receives for their schoolwork
The progress my child makes
The school’s exam results
The level of work given to my child
The level of work given to my child
The variety of subjects the school teaches
The pastoral care the school provides
The facilities the school has
The extra-curricular activities the school has
The school’s Ofsted report/s
Teacher’s reports of my child’s behaviour at schoolMy child’s behaviour outside school
What my child says about other children’s behaviour
Conversations with other parents

8.What other information would you find useful to rate the school’s performance?

9.a Have you ever been concerned about any aspect of the school’s performance?

10.In relation to school intervention in and underperformance of schools, are there any other comments you would like to make?

About you
Please could you answer the questions below to help us understand which groups of parents have responded to this consultation. This information will not allow us to identify you.

11.What kind of area do you live in?
A city
The outskirts of a city
A town
The outskirts of a town
A village
More rural than a village

12.During this school year have you or your partner been to a parents' evening or similar event at your child’s school?
No, no one has been to my child’s parents’ evening/s
No, another friend or relative went in my place
No, parents' evening has not taken place yet

13.Are you or your partner involved in the school in the following ways?
As a member of the parent teacher association
As a parent governor
Neither of these

14.In a typical week, how long does your child spend doing homework? Please enter the number of hours or 999 if you don’t know

15.How often does anyone at home help your child with his or her homework?
Never or almost never

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 06/04/2014 - 06:36

Thanks, Beth. That's very useful. Having seen the questions it's now difficult to see how the survey could be nobbled although this is obviously a concern (it appeared on the Mumsnet thread as well). Perhaps they were worried the survey would attract responses from hundreds of teachers anxious to prove Ofsted reports are worthless (although those in schools judged good or outstanding might want to prove the opposite!).

Not sure all parents would answer the last question honestly - helicopter parents, for example, might deny they "help" in order to preserve the illusion that their child's perfectly composed and punctuated work was done entirely without parental assistance.

Beth's picture
Sun, 06/04/2014 - 07:09

Janet, I think that's a bit paranoid. Firstly, I'm sure the National Audit Office is capable of assessing the risk of mass nobbling, and recognising unusual patterns of response beyond the occasional false results that appear in any survey. Secondly, that's why volume of response is important. If you only survey 10 people, your results are more likely to be skewed by rogue psychologies, but if you have thousands they're likely to be more balanced. Obviously it depends how the survey is promoted, but by making it simple and easy to complete (short, no log-ins, no cold-calls at awkward times of the day) they're actually more likely to get increased traffic (albeit self-selected). And the personal questions at the end will help them to assess whether they need to work harder to reach under-represented groups.

All surveys have some sort of bias. You just need to recognise the bias and compensate for it when interpreting the results (unfortunately something that isn't always done well). Otherwise nobody would ever survey anything.

I suspect the person who raised the concern on Mumsnet hadn't yet read the survey questions, so was just reacting to what she thought might be in it, rather than what actually is in it.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 06/04/2014 - 07:57

Beth: Sorry - should have made it clear that "this is obviously a concern for some people". Brevity sometimes breeds ambiguity.

I agree that the number of respondents is important - that's why I publicised the survey here and on Mumsnet.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 09/04/2014 - 10:33

The National Audit Office has answered my questions:

"In response to your questions, we look to engage with a wide range of stakeholders during fieldwork and parents are a key stakeholder for the school sector. The focus of our report is the Department for Education and its delivery partners rather than individual schools but we are keen to hear about parents’ experiences and the sorts of information they usually use to judge a school’s performance, as well as whether or not they have had concerns about school performance. The findings will be illustrative and used with other evidence gathered during fieldwork to ensure we are getting a balanced view of the system. We will be clear about the nature of the consultation when we publish our findings."

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