Ofsted ‘Uncomfortable’ To Downgrade Outstanding Schools Despite Declining Performance DatS

More than 30% of ‘outstanding’ secondary schools in England were kept at the same inspection grade in their follow up Ofsted inspection, despite seeing a “significant deterioration” in their academic performance, a new analysis has revealed.

Reporter – Chrys Salter

Research by the Education Policy Institute, published in November, found large numbers of schools are maintaining positive Ofsted grades despite a “significant deterioration” in results, as the government introduces a new performance measure for secondary schools which focuses on progress rather than individual student outcomes.

The research analysis of Ofsted inspection grades and the new performance data from 2007 to 2016, found that almost 34% of outstanding secondary schools who saw their performance progress stall or decline between inspections remained at the same grade, while just 6% were downgraded to ‘requires improvement’.

Russel Hagen, a spokesman from the national union of head teachers, explained to VEX that statistically ‘outstanding’ schools are increasingly being outperformed by schools graded ‘good’ by Ofsted.

“The inspection framework for all schools in England has changed beyond recognition over the past 10 years. Before, inspectors looked heavily at data analysis but this was then replaced by a framework which was too heavily weighted on things like behaviour of students, the social development of students and extracurricular activities on offer. They stopped looking at how well students were doing, which is why many schools achieved their ‘outstanding’ grades in the first place. Now that the framework has been revised and improved, many of the schools given an ‘outstanding’ grade do not perform half as well as many schools who have maintained a ‘good’ rating for several years”.

“In order for a school to be truly outstanding, the achievement and progress of their students should be exceptional. ‘Outstanding’ schools whose GCSE and A Level results are broadly average are not outstanding”.

“Many schools graded ‘good’ in every section of an inspection report are outperforming schools graded ‘outstanding’, which clearly isn’t right”.

“In fact, Ofsted now views many schools who are performing in line with the national average year on year, without seeing a significant improvement, as ‘coasting’, with only those performing above and beyond the average benchmark being awarded good or better”.

Ofsted grades schools on a scale of one to four, marking key areas deemed significant when deciding the overall effectiveness of an educational provider.

The report makes judgements on:

  • Achievements of all student groups
  • Pupils’ development and wellbeing
  • The quality of teaching and learning
  • How the curriculum is taught
  • The care, guidance and support the school provides
  • How well the school is led and managed

Judgements are scored on a four-point scale:

Grade 1 – Outstanding

Grade 2 – Good

Grade 3 – Requires Improvement

Grade 4 – Inadequate/failing

As of January 2016, schools are now unable to obtain an ‘outstanding’ Ofsted grade without the achievement and quality of teaching section of the report being rated as first class, despite if any other areas of the school are deemed to be outstanding.

An Ofsted spokesperson said in response to the EPI report: “As this report acknowledges, inspection judgements are based on a wealth of evidence not just data.

“Inspectors use their professional judgement to look at performance over time, the progress being made by pupils currently in a school and the effectiveness of leadership and management.

“That means we would not automatically mark down a school for a “sudden decline” in a single performance measure in a single year, as this report seems to suggest we should, if other evidence shows a school remains good or outstanding overall.”

Progress 8, a combination of the progress made over the five years of secondary school across eight subjects, including English and Maths, is said to be a ‘fairer and more representative figure for judging schools as it scrutinizes how well a school is doing at pushing students to achieve their best’ by educational secretary Justine Greening.

Progress 8 aims to capture the progress a pupil makes from the end of primary school to the end of secondary school. It is a type of value added measure, which means that pupils’ results are compared to the actual achievements of other pupils with the same prior attainment. The previous headline measure, of the percentage of students achieving five or more A* to C GCSE’s including English and Maths, was said to have benefited schools receiving very able students upon entry in year 7, which typically were the more affluent, white areas of the country, which many deemed unfair.


Credit – Ofsted.gov

The London borough of Harrow, a district notoriously known for its high standard of educational provision, has seen three of its ‘outstanding’ secondary schools lose grip on their top positioning spots on the government league tables following the ranking reshuffle; Nower Hill High School, Sacred Heart Language College and Park High School. All three schools, previously topping the regional tables, have fallen an average of four places respectively and have been overtaken by schools including Salvatorian Catholic College, which holds a ‘requires improvement’ judgement from Ofsted.

Alongside the three ‘outstanding’ schools which have fallen in the new government rankings, previously low scoring schools have now see their league table positions rise in light of the new scoring method, including Whitmore High School and Canons High School.

Prime Minister Theresa May cited that reform within the way in which schools are judged and assessed, both on results and Ofsted inspections, is an area which she hopes to give serious attention to over the coming years.


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