A common observation from many families is that many OFSTED reports are extremely out of date.
Certainly many schools rated “Outstanding” have not been inspected by OFSTED for over ten years – an example being this school in West London – https://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/provider/21/100346,
The reason for this was an exemption introduced in 2012 that would allow schools rated “Outstanding” and “Good” to be inspected less regularly. The thinking behind this was that OFSTED could focus its efforts on those schools that needed more help, that fell in the “Requires Improvement” or “Inadequate” categories.
As of 2020, this position is changing, with OFSTED now inspecting all schools regularly again. They recognise that there can be many changes in a school’s profile – for example a change of headteacher – that might change the way the school is working.
A common question we hear from families concerns the state school application process.
Many relocating families now apply into the state sector, however are faced with the challenge of forward-planning when using the in-year admissions process.
Most councils and schools require a family to be resident before submitting an application for a state school. This means that if they are looking for a space in January, but it is only early October, they don’t have clarity on which schools will have space.
Councils do this as they need to keep school places open for children who need them on an immediate basis. A family does not become the local authority’s duty of care until they are residing within the boundaries of that authority.
There are however ways and strategies to make the most of “known unknowns” to help families forward plan. For more information, contact our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
State secondary schools applications close on the 31st October 2019 for September 2020 onwards.
Many schools – especially academies and free schools – allow some pupils entrance based on aptitude, often in the arts or music – accompanied by a reference from their current school.
There does seem to be some leeway here for schools to cherry-pick students in a non-transparent way – based on subjective artistic judgement and a confidential report in to a student’s abilities.
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.