Revised data shows fall in good schools. But should Ofsted change focus rather than data input?

Janet Downs's picture

The proportion of schools judged good or outstanding has fallen, revised data from Ofsted reveals.  

Ofsted has altered the way it reports inspection results.      700 extra schools have been added to the most recent dataset.  This now includes inspection results of predecessor schools for sponsored academies which haven’t been inspected since sponsorship began.

There’d been concerns that omitting inspection results for sponsored academies’ predecessor schools distorted inspection data.   Such schools were often less than good before becoming sponsored academies.  But leaving out this data made it seem inspection outcomes were better than they actually were.

Ofsted’s revised data shows the proportion of all schools which are good or outstanding drops from 88% to 86%.  In the primary phase, the proportion drops from 90% to 87%.  But it is in the secondary phase where including the new data has the most effect.  The proportion of secondary schools judged good or outstanding drops from 80% to 76%.

Uninspected sponsored academies may be upgraded at their first inspection.  That, after all, is the reasoning behind sponsorship.  But this might not be the case with some.  Sponsored academies are usually schools which were struggling.  Changing a school’s structure doesn’t automatically result in improvement that can be assessed by Ofsted.

Sponsored academies are often in deprived areas and ‘there are many reasons why it might be harder for those schools to be effective’, Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman told the Public Accounts Committee.  

This doesn’t apply only to sponsored academies, of course.  Non-academies in such areas face the same problems.  These include difficulties in recruiting and retaining teachers together with the dispiriting effects of poverty (detailed at the end of this article).  But, Spielman admitted, Ofsted is responsible for assessing standards of education which is ‘rather different’ to measuring the effort put in by schools’ leadership teams (I would also add, the effort put in by those at the chalkface).

In other words, inspectors may damn a school where teachers and their leaders are busting a gut to help their pupils but where their efforts may still ‘fail’ because of factors outside their control.

Perhaps it’s time for inspectors to take more account of input – the quality of the effort put into a school – rather than output – a quality which is affected by a school’s intake.

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