How outstanding is Outstanding?

The integrity of the gold standard of English state education – the OFSTED “Outstanding” rating – has been brought into question.

The head of OFSTED has commented that these top-rated schools are a “blind-spot” in the education system as they are inspected so infrequently.   The decision by the government in 2011 to exempt outstanding schools from routine inspections – brought about by a need to focus limited resources on poorly performing schools – has meant that some schools had not been inspected in over a decade.

Even schools rated “Good”, the second category, only receive a one-day inspection every four years.

The government provides a counter argument that annual performance data provides parents with transparency on how a school is working and that OFSTED would inspect a school in response to parental concerns.

Performance data is helpful – though not always easy to understand since the introduction of a parallel measurement of  pure performance in testing and student progress measurement.  There is also useful information to be mined – though harder to interpret –  with such key indicators as pupil spend, attendance and socio-economic background.

However the importance of on-the-ground support is vital here – revealing soft data such as changes in leadership, teacher turn-over, school morale and pressure on space – that is often impossible find through the Google search.