In Norfolk, the difference in Ofsted grades for infant and junior schools is particularly stark – with 14 of the former currently judged “outstanding”, but none of the latter.
One Norfolk junior school head, who asked not to be named for fear of offending his feeder schools, described the situation as “frustrating” and blamed schools’ data as the main reason for the discrepancy. “Ultimately,” he said, “you have to look at the difference between a teacher-assessed judgement at key stage 1 and externally marked assessment at KS2. That’s where it seems to me there is a disparity.”
He suggested that teacher assessments could be 15 per cent more generous than those marked outside, and that the official data from the infant school about pupils entering his junior school “doesn’t always reflect the attainment of the child you see in front of you”.
“As far as Ofsted is concerned, they have been very data-focused in the past, and progress measures, in particular, have been of interest to them”, he said.
“In my last inspection, I said our children were at this level when they came, and here is where they are now, but [the inspector] said they had not made this much progress from KS1.
“It becomes almost impossible for a junior school to show that level of progress, because of the high level of attainment that children are coming in with.”
The headteacher added that the real issue may be that all-through primary schools have an incentive to suppress KS1 results, so they can show greater progress when pupils reach KS2, while there is no incentive for infant schools to do the same when assessing their children.
Asked for other possible explanations for the disparity in Ofsted gradings, he suggested that infant school judgements may be less data-driven and may take more account of classroom inspections.
He also noted that junior schools, unlike primaries, have no control over what pupils are doing for several months between taking their KS1 assessments and beginning KS2 in September.
The head added: “I don’t think there’s anything to be concerned about in terms of quality of provision in junior schools.”