Does ‘the school makes sure its pupils are well behaved?’, or ‘Does the school makes sure my child is well-behaved?’
On Tuesday 9th July 2019, Ofsted updated and published its Parent View: toolkit for schools – materials that can be adapted and used by schools to raise awareness with parents. The above former prompt is a question Ofsted will ask of parents from September 2019.
Everyone has an opinion …
When an Ofsted inspection is triggered, the head teacher has to notify parents about the inspection and invite them to complete Parent View – an online survey. Prior to September 2019, anyone can log in and complete the survey, numerous times if they want to, but the person does need to stipulate if they are a parent of the school. This conjures all sorts of scenarios …
In March 2019, I argued that Ofsted asked parents ‘very dangerous questions‘ which would lead to unreliable outcomes. I shared this information prior to Ofsted’s new inspection framework which is due to commence in September 2019 – to contribute to the framework in a hope that any silly questions, such as the following, are removed from the process. The two (of 12) questions that concerned me were:
- Is my child is taught well at the school?
- Does my child receive appropriate homework for their age?
I am pleased to report that at least one of my original concerns has been answered. My contention with the teaching and learning question was:
- Has the parent observed any lessons being taught?
- Has the parent observed their child being taught?
- What experience does the parent have with evaluating teaching?
From September 2019, Ofsted is updating what they ask in their Parent View survey so that it links more closely to Ofsted’s new education inspection framework. Ofsted has removed and adapted some of the statements. They have also added new questions including a question for parents of children with special education needs or disabilities (SEND).
In total, there are now 14 questions to answer Ofsted ask of parents:
- My child is happy at this school.
- My child feels safe at this school.
- The school makes sure its pupils are well behaved.
- My child has been bullied and the school dealt with the bullying quickly and effectively.
- The school makes me aware of what my child will learn during the year.
- When I have raised concerns with the school they have been dealt with properly.
- Does your child have special educational needs or disabilities (SEND)? (yes or no) … If yes, the survey asks parents how strongly they agree with this statement: ‘My child has SEND, and the school gives them the support they need to succeed.’
- The school has high expectations for my child.
- My child does well at this school.
- The school lets me know how my child is doing.
- There is a good range of subjects available to my child at this school.
- My child can take part in clubs and activities at this school.
- The school supports my child’s wider personal development.
- I would recommend this school to another parent. (yes or no)
From the questions above, which questions asked of parents would lead to them making unreliable and unfounded claims?
For me, question 3 on whole-school behaviour still stands out like a sore thumb! It is good to see questions on homework and progress removed from the old questionnaire. On behaviour, asking parents for their opinions on this matter is very concerning.
Instead, we should ask ‘Does the school makes sure my child is well-behaved?’
These would lead our parents to provide more meaningful responses about their child which our high-stakes inspection teams can then use – without assumptions being made by parents, about what they think may or may not be happening with other children’s behaviour, largely out of a parent’s control or knowledge.
This would also place some form of responsibility back on the family rather than the school. Perhaps an additional question could be: Do you (regularly) support your child’s behaviour at home so that they are well-behaved at school?
How will parental responses be used?
Ofsted has published full details about how they will use this information. If the response rate for Ofsted Parent View is low, inspectors may take steps during the inspection to gather further parents’ views … Inspectors will consider and weigh parents’ views against a range of other first-hand evidence.
I guess the question is, how much weight do the responses have, and how much will question 3 (above) factor into the claims parents make about whole-school behaviour when really, all they are doing will be evaluating their perceptions of what their own child has experienced and their interactions with other pupils on their way to and from the school gates.
It has taken me over 25 years to garner anything reliable about whole-school evaluation of behaviour. I didn’t crack it, but working day-to-day in schools did help to determine reliable ways of testing behaviour. How anyone can expect parents to do this from a distance, I have no idea.
It would be worthwhile Ofsted revisiting this question one more time before the Education Inspection Framework is launched in September 2019. Rather than ‘Does the school makes sure its pupils are well behaved?’ Ofsted should ask, ‘Does the school makes sure my child is well-behaved?’ and ‘Do you ensure your child is well-behaved at home so that improvement can be seen in school?’
I suspect some will view this as an abdication of duties for every school.
The profession has questioned the reliability of Ofsted inspections and its reliability and validity of evaluating the quality of teaching and learning. 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. Asking better questions of parents, can only help …