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Is an outstanding school genuinely outstanding?

Discussion in 'Ofsted inspections' started by bettyhen, Mar 14, 2008.

  1. I have been surprised at the judgements of OFSTED for some time, never more so than during my recent stint on Supply.
    The school I had just left expected to be judged 'outstanding'. (I was forced to leave my full time, permanent post by exceedingly poor management and lack of leadership, the children's behaviour in the upper year groups was very poor and the Governors were ineffectual and under the control of the Headteacher) yet I have been in two schools recently judged to be so weak as to merit Special Measures and have found the behaviour to be excellent, the learning environment to be well managed and controlled, the planning excellent and the learning good. Colleagues have also reported working in schools which have been appalling places for staff to work in for a variety of reasons, which have been deemed outstanding by OFSTED.
    What this says about OFSTED is that they don't ask the right questions of parents or staff, staff are not able to answer honestly even if they get asked and too much emphasis is put on the SEF and league table results.
    As a teacher or a parent I would have no faith in an OFSTED report in deciding where to work or
    where to send my children to school.
  2. We have just been inspected and got a good with outstanding features. We had to provide an excessive paper trail and this was used to confirm the judgements already made by the SLT. No judgements on the SEF were changed by the OFSTED inspector. It all hinged on the CVA. From reading around (and a recent article in the TES) it is all about the grade you get for achievement and standards and nothing else seems to really matter which I find very frustrating.
  3. My school received 'Outstanding' status and I lost all faith in Ofsted. What I teach pupil wise is far from outstanding. Next time Ofsted call, I shan't be worrying like I was and planning hours on lessons. Pah!
  4. Ofsted talk a lot of rubbish. I remember an 'inspection' some years ago, and, as head of English, I was told by my boss I would have to do 'lesson plans.' Well, the last time I did one of them was about 3000 years ago whilst at training college. Anyway, the boss is always right, so I downloaded a ton of stuff from one of those 'teaching websites' ( very handy- to do about 50 of said 'plans' only takes a few minutes) and, when inspector-bloke came in, had them all piled up on the desk. Bloke looked at first one and said, 'do you do this for all your classes?' to which I replied,' no, of course not; what kind of bl**dy idiot is going to do all that?' Bloke then left and gave us a glowing report!
  5. I have been working as a primary supply teacher for 3 years previously having moved up the teaching hierachy as a far as Deputy Head.

    I am AMAZED/APALLED at the discrepancy between what the schools are like compared with their OFSTED reports. In many OFSTED highly-rated schools I see poor management, work standards and pupil behaviour. Conversely I see some excellent schools, often do an excellent job in difficult circumstances, which are castigated by OFSTED.

    I believe it is very much about ticking all the correct boxes and talking the talk.

    My experience in over 200 schools has NOT enhanced my opinion of OFSTED.
  6. Sir Cumference

    Sir Cumference Occasional commenter

    I am head of an 'outstanding' school. It is great to feel that the hard work I and everyone else does has been recognised, and yet it puts a lot of pressure on everyone. Once the happy hour feeling dies down and you get back to feeling shattered, the pressure kicks in.

    How can I still be 'outstanding' next time? Do I still have to work on continuous high level school improvement.

    The inspection system kills good practice every time, regardless of your grade.
  7. During an ofsted an another school I worked at the inspector came and observed my maths lesson and helped out with some children.

    After the lesson one of the kids he'd been helping asked me to clarify something I had said in the lesson which the inspector had advised could be done in a praticular way when helping him. He was confused and so I went over it with him, it transpired that the inspector had unfortunately given him mistaken advice leading to the confusion.

    I told my acting head teacher and she mulled it over with the deputy and then went to the ofsted inspector' office. Basically as the school were in serious weaknessess and the inspection appeared to be in the balance the acting HT used the mistake as leverage to persuade the team to look more favourably on our school.

    I really have no idea if this influenced the decision but we were given the green light at the end. It also restored faith in humanity for me as it was clear to me early on in my career that inspectors can make mistakes just like me!!
  8. It's interesting that so many people are sceptical about Ofsted's judgments. I agree as different Inspectors visit schools and surely their definition of outstanding cannot be wholly objective.

    What for instance, makes the difference between a 'good with outstanding features' school and an outstanding school? Could it be something as simple as the school's knowledge of how to present itself?
  9. Ofsted inspections these days consist of very few inspectors in school for a short amount of time who look at odd bits of lessons, talk to a few people, and spend most of their time ploughing through paperwork. As far as I can tell they have half written the report before they come in based on their analysis of the available data to them, then they look for evidence to back up their preconceived ideas.

    We had one inspector for two days for a school with 100 pupils. He spoke to every member of staff, visited every class, spoke to just about every governor, a lot of the pupils and several parents . He had his report written by early afternoon on the second day. In our case I think he got the judgement about right. At my daughter's school they had four inspectors for two days for 1000 pupils. There is no way they visited every class, spoke to every pupil, every teacher, every governor, or more than a very few parents. They cannot have inspected that school as thoroughly as the one inspector did at ours. The school is ten times the size with only four times the number of inspectors!

    SMT who know what paperwork to produce, and can talk the talk can go a long way to getting their school an outstanding grading. You have to show you know where improvements need to be made, and give the impression you are going to make them (whether the intention is really there or not).

  10. To answer the original post..........NO!!!!!
  11. Got to agree with last post. If SLT can produce the paperwork, talk the talk and paper over the cracks, the Ofsted haven't a clue. In the meantime everyone gets royally screwed and demoralised by the HT's relentless drive for that "Outstanding" grade.

    Our last report judged us "Good" with many "Outstanding" features. Reading the report I wondered if they were talking about my school.
  12. I am at the opposite end of the spectrum...we are a primary school recently put into "special measures".

    OFSTED is bad enough, but it pails into insignificance compared to the arrival both post and pre OFSTED of the dreaded Local Authority Adviser/OFSTED wannabe; the Carpetbagger of the educational establishment. They can be found circling "failing" schools; walking through the door armed with bags full of OFSTED inspection criteria and expensive "How to get Outstanding" text books.

    They hang around for a term or so and set up stall by holding staff observations. Staff are totally demoralised by harsh criticism of their teaching styles and poor observation results ("we are using the new OFSTED criteria after all"). They then go about selling their wares. Working groups are set up consisting of knackered coerced members of staff who attend crappy after school "sessions" in an attempt to improve their teaching technique.

    The final stage is another series of observations where...surprise surprise, suddenly massive improvements can be seen. The adviser then takes the cash, leaves the by now totally confused school and heads for pastures new, adding yet another "success story" to their CV!
  13. Damn! I AM tired....

    That would be.."pales into insignificance"...

  14. Ofsted is not a proper inspection system and it should be abolished immediately. Ofted inspection teams are largely made up of former members of schools' senior management teams. Many of them haven't taught a proper timetable in 20 years and are hopelessly unrealistic in their views of what can and ought to be achieved in the classroom. Their assertions about what is and is not good practice are not evidence-based.
    Being former members of the SMT they tend to overlook the failings of school management. We hear a great deal about the impact a poor teacher can have on a pupil and the need to remove them quickly. Poor management impacts on far more students (and the staff) and there ought to be a far greater focus on how well a school is being managed. Instead, Ofsted allow the management to tell them about the school and teachers, and then inspect to see if they agree with it. It's all far too chummy for my liking.
    In my opinion, this is why we end up with ridiculous reasons being given for downgrading teachers. Ofsted have been told that someone is satisfactory so they have to come up with a reason to justify agreeing with this. Again. my opinion, but I don't think that the bullying inspection regime and ludicrously complicated set of teaching standards has done anything to raise teaching standards in our schools. I believe that the assessment regime should be sufficiently reliable and robust to allow judgements to be made about pupils' progress. Nobody should be judged inadequate on the basis of a 20min visit to their classroom. I'm not saying that inspectors shouldn't go into classrooms. I'm just arguing that brief classroom observations have aquired a weight that goes way beyond the limits of error. In broad terms, I would like to see school inspectors confine themselves to looking at how well a school is being run. In this context, managers from other walks of life could participate in inspection teams.
    Discussion of teaching standards and how to raise them is a matter for the profession itself and judgements about individual teachers should be made by the people who employ them. If teaching is to be regarded as a profession, teachers must act professionally and must be trusted to do this. In my experience, professional people who are given some freedom to show what they can do often respond by working harder for you. It's about ownership and human nature. If you feel you are responsible for what you do, you tend to work harder. If you feel that you are working under duress you tend to do the minimum.
    As a footnote, and in view of the negative comments about Ofsted inspectors I have to ask if there should not be an inspectorate for the inspectors to give public confidence that they are up to the job?
  15. I work with schools and academies on school performance issues. Inspection according to the 2012 schedule is a very much reduced operation from what it was some years ago when a big team was in school for a week. Judgments then had a very thorough evidence base.
    Now, inspection is much more about sampling teaching, checking that what RAISEonline said about the school last year still applies, and exploring the school's own view of itself. Because it is a much slimmed down operation it is important that the school provides its own evidence of student progress, current levels of attainment, and the quality of teaching. Without school evidence the judgments will be less predictable and largely based on sampling teaching with 25 minute observations, and last years RAISEonline data.
    As for an outstanding judgment, if a school is better than good they have to give it an outstanding judgment because that is all that is open to them. So really, what we know is that the school is 'better than good'. This is not to diminish the achievements of schools which gain an outstanding judgment because it means that you are as good as the system can judge you. However, within that category there will be quite a range from a bit better than good, to a school that really is at the top end of the scale on all factors.
    Ofsted have said that an outstanding judgment will only be given if teaching is outstanding. This doesn't mean that every lesson has to be outstanding every time, just that the majority of lessons are in this category. Although it is human nature to want to 'put on a show', lessons that are very different to what usually happens will stand out as such. Aiming for consistently well planned and at least good would be the thing to aim for.
    The other important determininant is the progress that pupils make. Good teaching will lead to good progress over time, and this will be seen by looking at pupils' work. If pupils are not working at appropriate levels then one can deduce that the teaching over time leads to slow progress and therefore is not satisfactory. So it comes down to being consistent and good.
  16. chriszwinter1

    chriszwinter1 New commenter

    I suppose this illustrates what happens when we allow Ofsted to hijack words and then re-define them.
  17. I work at a school that was oustanding in its contribution to the community, its drama and arts work and turned out great responsible and capable citizens as well as hitting 'good' targets. I now, a decade down the line, work at the same school which has different management who ignore their vastly experienced and professional staff, issue edicts from on high, and are solely focused on the inspection. The community side and the arts have withered; students are more interested in their iPhones than in success. The climate of achievement for its own rewards has vanished.
  18. I started working in a school that had just been given "good moving towards excellent" rating by Ofsted. When they visited three years later - a no notice inspection - the school was placed in special measures. What struck me as odd about this was the fact that nothing had changed in the way the school was run between the two inspections except that the Headteacher at the time of the first inspection had left the term before the second inspection and the new Headteacher had not been in his new job long enough to have any major impact on the school.

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