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.