Can OfSTED Improve?

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Does Ofsted grades schools with differing pupil intakes fairly? If so, what impact does a judgement have on those schools?

In this report, the Education Policy Institute considers whether, over the nine years to 2014/2015, the inspection system has been responsive to deterioration in school performance and to the wider challenges that some schools face.

In two posts I shared earlier this week, I highlighted the following:

10 Goals for OfSTED:

In the above post, I set out my 10 recommendations for OfSTED reform. Those were:

  1. Keep whoever ends up being ‘on the inspection team in the same school’ over a period of time.
  2. No more OfSTED banners on school gates, websites and letterheads.
  3. We need an inspectorate that holds schools to account, where ‘outcomes’ are not the be-all-and-end-all.
  4. Let’s end the culture of school leaders gathering any self-evaluation evidence for an inspection.
  5. Move from the current four-graded system to just two overall judgements: Good and Not Yet Good.
  6. Begin monitoring and evaluating in peer-to-peer networks with schools holding each other to account.
  7. Keep the Teaching, Learning and Assessment section of the framework.
  8. Make inspections less high-stakes for schools.
  9. Work harder to eliminate preferences in inspection reports and dispel myths.
  10. Less detailed commentary on final inspection reports would lead to reduced ambiguity.


The Education Policy Institute has published new analysis on OfSTED’s inspection of English schools.

Using data from inspections that took place from 2005/06 to 2014/15 (inclusive), School Inspection in England examines the extent to which OfSTED acts in a timely manner to identify schools with substantial declines in performance – and if OfSTED grades schools with differing pupil intakes fairly.

Probability of Ofsted judgement improving at latest inspection, by percentage of pupils eligible for free school meals and previous judgement

Click to open: “Probability of OfSTED judgement improving at latest inspection, by % of pupils eligible for free school meals.”

Key Findings:

  • There is a systematic negative correlation between school intakes with more disadvantaged children, or more children with low prior attainment, and with favourable OfSTED judgements.
  •  The least deprived schools were also most likely to improve their OfSTED judgement and least likely to be down-graded, even after accounting for their previous OfSTED judgement.
  • Secondary schools with the fewest pupils with low prior attainment are almost six times as likely to be rated ‘outstanding’ as schools with the most low prior attainers
  • Socio-economic and prior attainment gradients are not simply a fair reflection of value-added progress in schools.
  • Schools with more disadvantaged pupils are less likely to be judged ‘good’ or ‘outstanding, while schools with low disadvantage and high prior attainment are much more likely to be rated highly.

Probability of judgement worsening, Secondary OfSTED Education Policy Institute

Click to open

These findings raise questions about whether the inspection system is fully equitable to schools with challenging intakes. EPI have found that the least disadvantaged schools are most likely to be judged ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’, and that notable proportions of ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ schools are not down-graded, despite a substantial deterioration in their academic performance.

Latest Ofsted judgements for schools, by percentage of pupils eligible for free school meals OfSTED Education Policy Institute

Click to open

The Education Policy Institute says: “we conclude from this that there may indeed be some room for improvements to the school inspections system in future.”

Oh, I love EPI!

You can download the full report here.



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