At this time of year, thousands upon thousands of parents across the country are choosing a primary school for their child for next September. There have been on going conversations across dinner tables thrashing out nearest schools versus schools with after school care. Or schools with interesting school clubs versus schools with a great reputation. And so it goes on.
However, for many parents one of the deciders when choosing a primary school is the Ofsted Report. Is the school categorised as an Outstanding school or is it Requires Improvement?
But, does Ofsted’s opinion really matter? And what does it all mean?
Well, the first thing to know is that, for Good and Outstanding Schools, Ofsted will (under the new guidelines) visit the school for one day. Normally this will be one inspector (maybe more if needed) for one day. They will have already considered the school’s results in statutory tests (Year 2 and Year 6), will know what the attendance is, and will have a good idea what progress children make.
So, in reality, if this is all looking good, then they will visit for a day, take note of what parents’ say, watch snippets of lessons, and talk to the Head and Governors. If it all looks good, on that day, then the school will retain their Good or Outstanding category.
For schools graded as Requires Improvement, or Inadequate, then inspectors will visit for 2 days. Once again they will have looked at the data, attendance and have a good idea about how children are performing in Year 2 and Year 6. They will spend longer observing lessons, talking to various leaders as well as the Head and Governors, and will do a robust visit. Then they will make their judgement.
So…what does this all mean for you?
Well, it could mean many things. I have heard of people reading an Ofsted report, seeing the school is Good, visiting it and noticing things aren’t quite as they seem. Or alternatively visiting a Requires Improvement school and being blown away by the great things going on there.
So these are the things to bear in mind:
Don’t immediately discount Requires Improvement schools. Oddly perhaps, but I actively seek our Requires Improvement schools for my children. I know, having worked in one as the Head and a different one as a teacher, that the whole staff team of a Requires Improvement school never rests on their laurels. They have a point to prove, they want to do the absolutely best for the children in the school, and they are probably working 10 times harder than other schools to get out of the category! They also will have a LOT of outside support to ensure that the education is as good as it can be!
Remember that, for Good and Outstanding schools, Ofsted only visits for 1 day. Most of the result is based on assessment results. I’m not saying they aren’t important but, certainly for me, I want my children to be somewhere that will develop the whole person, not just concentrate on results!
Never assume that a Good school is good enough for your child. They might not have the wraparound care you need. Or they may be heavily into sports clubs whereas your child prefers board games. Or they might not have any clubs at all! It’s worth looking into!
My final point is to always visit the website of the schools you are considering. The most important part for me is the newsletters. What is the tone like? Look at the ones from the beginning of the year. Are they introducing loads of new staff? Is the newsletter always moaning at parents about something or is it about celebrating the school and children? You’ll be surprised by how much information you can pick up – most of which is more relevant than the Ofsted report!
Choosing a school is a big deal. You want your child to be happy wherever they go, and to reach their potential. So please don’t just read the Ofsted report! A good school is one where children are happy, looked after, well rounded and the school cares more than just about results!