Are Parent View Questions Dangerous?

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Parent View


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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How do parents know what good teaching is?

On Thursday 28th February 2019, Ofsted published its Parent View management information, published annually in the interests of transparency. You can watch a video of my analysing the questions and download the data in the post.

Everyone has an opinion …

The profession has questioned the reliability of Ofsted inspections and its reliability and validity of evaluating the quality of teaching and learning – particularly in a one-off lesson observation for a number of years. If research recommends that graded lessons and grading teachers is unreliable and not valid, then it doesn’t take a clever soul to work out that grading complex institutions will be even weaker when inspecting them over two days.

Let’s ask our parents for meaningful views…

Some readers will know that when an English state school receives an Ofsted inspection, a ‘parent survey’ is shared with the parental population of the school. Anyone can log in and complete the survey, numerous times if they want to, but you do need to stipulate that you are a parent of the school. There are 12 questions Ofsted ask of parents.

I’d like to challenge two Parent View questions which may go against teachers and their schools.


When writing this post, I decided to log back in and play around with my previous answers. In the video above, I offer my thoughts as a parent, analysing my possible answers versus my experiences of being a teacher.

Q5. My child is taught well at the school?

Here are the views nationally from the data collected by Ofsted. Almost 400,000 views from parents about how good teaching is within their child’s school. This is assuming several key sources of information are available for parents to be able to make these decisions reliably:

  1. Has the parent observed any lessons being taught?
  2. Has the parent ever observed their child being taught?
  3. What experience does the parent have with evaluating teaching?

On closer inspection, you will see that I am in the minority of parent views: I ‘Don’t Know’ if my child is being taught well at the school because I have never actually been in any of the classrooms to observe a lesson, nor have I ever seen my child being taught. How can I possibly make a reliable decision? Worse, that Ofsted uses this information to form a valid assessment of how well a school is performing.

Ofsted Parent View: management information February 2019

From the data you will see that parents in London and the North West are ‘happier’ with how their child is being taught, compared with parents in the West Midlands. How do we believe parents can reliably evaluate this without being in a classroom, beats me!

Q6. Does my child receive appropriate homework for their age?

Over the 25 years, I have worked in teaching, I have never cracked homework as a teacher, middle leader or as a deputy headteacher. Call me incapable of doing a good job, I can live with that. Homework timetables, week A and week B rotas, online software and en-masse allocation, Google classroom monitoring and collection, pupil planners and homework scrutinies galore. And guess what? Every time there wasn’t enough or it wasn’t consistently set or it was not completed.

Below is what parents say about homework.

The picture is not as bad as I had suspected. In both examples, fewer parents responded from the East Midlands which is also a tougher place for schools to achieve a Good or Outstanding rating from Ofsted. Fewer families or a tougher context in which to work may be a correlation here …

Ofsted Parent View: management information February 2019As a parent, I struggle every Sunday night to motivate my son to complete his weekly three-chilli-challenge activities. (I apologise on behalf of the profession for sharing this idea in 2013 for it being misinterpreted). Some families would declare there is no homework set, whilst others would give Ross a ‘clip around the ear’ as he sat with his parents in front of Mr. McGill at parents evening as the teacher explained all the homework set for the term against a sea of blank pages in an exercise book with red colour-coded data entries on a printed Excel sheet.

As a teacher trainer, in many of the schools I have visited, to try to retain teachers and reduce teacher workload, schools are now abandoning homework being set and/or marked.

Time for reliable evidence to be used?

One former school inspector said: “I used to ignore parent view unless it backed what I thought about the school. I think most inspectors do. If you go ‘good’, or ‘RI’, you can use parent view to back either [claim].”

Is it time for Ofsted to ask parents more reliable questions? I’ve only tackled two out of the twelve questions, but what do you think? To download, the full dataset, click here and also visit Ofsted’s website.

I share this information here prior to Ofsted’s new inspection framework kick starting in September 2019 – make sure you respond to the consultation before 5th April 2019. I do hope that silly questions such as these are removed from the process.


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