Schoolzone: Does Ofsted prefer nice schools?

Does Ofsted prefer nice schools?


22 Nov 2016

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How much notice does Ofsted take of value-added measures?

Here’s what you might imagine:

  • A school’s performance is in decline
  • Ofsted visits, writes a report, downgrades the school

But not if the school was an outstanding primary: these “were only fractionally more likely to be down-graded than schools where no such academic deterioration took place”. Nor if they were good primaries: two thirds of deteriorating schools remained good – some were even promoted.

In secondaries, half of good schools remained so, while 11% were promoted.

These are the findings of an Education Policy Institute report, out today.

Does Ofsted think schools in nice areas are more effective?

Surely Ofsted is fair, regardless of how well off a school’s parents might be?
Err… “Secondary schools with up to 5% of pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM) are over three times as likely to be rated ‘outstanding’ as schools with at least 23% FSM”.

Meanwhile “secondary schools with the most FSM pupils are much more likely to be rated ‘inadequate’ than those with the fewest (15% vs. 1%)”.

And what about the first issue: downgrading following poor performance? Well: “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”.

How about schools with low prior attaining pupils: what does Ofsted think about them?

“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 (47% vs. 8%).”

So is Ofsted biased?

Here are a few suggestions about why these differentials might arise:

  • Ofsted inspection criteria ignore value-added performance
  • It’s harder to impress Ofsted when you teach pupils from poorer backgrounds
  • Ofsted inspectors and/or criteria don’t recognise this difficulty and adjust for it
  • Ofsted inspectors are more easily impressed by schools in nice areas with brighter pupils
  • It’s easier to be Outstanding in schools in nice areas with brighter pupils
  • Schools in nice areas with brighter pupils attract more outstanding teachers and leaders

We may not be particularly surprised by any of these findings – but should we tolerate them?





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