Ofsted Can Help Parents Make Informed Choices

Choosing a school for your child is a big decision. We all know that deciding where they will spend the next six or seven years is not a matter to be taken lightly, and it can be confusing.

If you are looking to select a school, I would urge you to read Ousted inspection reports. Of course, our reports are not the only source of information. It is important that you visit any school you might be considering applying for, speak to other parents, and get a sense of what people locally think.

That said, you can trust the findings of our reports, which are always written by experienced educational inspectors. Her Majesty’s Inspectors and our Ofsted inspectors who inspect schools all have qualified teacher status and a track record of delivering improvement in schools.

More and more serving headteachers and leaders are joining Ofsted and many are leading our inspections. We contract with these professionals to work on three or four inspections a year, so that their frontline experience is reflected in the way we work.

Each inspection report tells you what they have found out about a school’s effectiveness of leadership and management, the quality of teaching, outcomes for pupils, how safe children are, and much more.

So what actually happens on inspection?

We normally notify the school around lunchtime on the day before an inspection. The lead inspector prepares a short analysis of any published data and a briefing note for their inspection team. They look at different aspects of the school before they go into it.

This data is one factor in forming a judgement. But the importance of an inspection is that we see the school as it is on the day. And it’s worth knowing here that schools get less than one day’s notice of an inspection coming (sometimes they get none) so we do see what it is really like.

Inspectors want to see a positive culture where pupils are keen to learn. How is the school preparing pupils for the next stage – whether that’s secondary school, or university, training or work.

It is when inspectors walk through a school and talk to the leaders, teachers and pupils that inspectors get a sense of its culture.

Inspectors assess whether the school has high aspirations which do not leave behind, for example, children from poorer families or those who have special educational needs and/or disabilities; and which stretches the most able pupils.

At the end of the school inspection, the team reaches its final judgements and feeds back to the school leaders and governors about their findings.

The lead inspector then writes the inspection report which is generally published within a month of the visit.

There are four Ofsted grades: outstanding, good, requires improvement and inadequate. As you might expect we believe all schools should be at least good. Schools which are judged less than good will be inspected more frequently so that we can see whether they are improving the areas that we have identified as needing to be better.

A key thing to look at in any inspection report is what we have said about leadership in the school. This will usually identify the capacity for a school to improve quickly. So if a school is judged to require improvement but the leadership and management are judged to be good, then that is a clear signal that the school is going in the right direction.

In our Ofsted Annual Report, we recognised the exceptional leaders across England who were bringing about significant improvements in their own school, as well as providing support to other schools.

We take parents’ views about schools very seriously and we do so both during the inspection and throughout the year, through our Parent View website. We do want to hear your feedback – positive and negative – about your experiences of your child’s school life. Doing so through Parent View provides valuable information to other parents trying to make a decision about a school. So I would encourage all parents to share their views with Ofsted.

Wherever you decide to send your child to school, I hope that it will be a fulfilling experience that sets them up for the rest of their life.

by Sean Harford,

Ofsted National Director for Education