Ofsted keeping all inspection grades despite concerns over pressure

Inspectorate says moving to a system where schools are above or below the line would be even more 'high stakes'

John Roberts

Amanda Spielman says Ofsted is keeping the four grade inspection of schools

Ofsted has said that it intends to keep the four inspection grades of schools despite concerns about “the enormous amount of pressure they cause”.

The inspectorate said it acknowledged that there are valid concerns about the current system.

However, in a new report, it suggests that either scrapping inspection grades or moving to a pass/fail system could make inspection even more high stakes and increase the reliance on exam results to hold schools to account.

It also said an effective system of school choice requires information being made available for parents.

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Ofsted's new report, published today, follows criticism from the new EDSK (Education and Skills) think-tank which said the inspectorate should stop giving schools potentially misleading overall inspection grades.

The inspectorate claims that arguments for change do not outweigh the case for keeping the current system in place.

Chief inspector Amanda Spielman said: “Choosing the right childcare provider, school or college for your child is one of the most important decisions a parent will make.

"Parents use our reports to help them make that choice and to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of their child’s school. The grades are a reliable measure of quality. They are simple, they are well understood and they work for parents.”  

Inspectors currently give schools one of four inspection grades: "outstanding", "good", "requires improvement" or "inadequate".

In its new report, the inspectorate said that some commentators recommended scrapping grades or moving to a system where schools are above or below the line.

It said that there were some concerns that the current system can “lead to an enormous amount of pressure on schools and headteachers.”

The report adds: "People feel that the high-stakes nature of accountability can have negative consequences in terms of provider behaviours, such as gaming league tables, health and wellbeing of staff and disincentivising collaboration with other providers.

It says: “We do not pretend that these objections do not exist or that they are not to some extent valid. However, on balance, the arguments for change do not yet counterbalance the arguments for keeping the current system.”

Ofsted said an effective system of school and provider choice requires information for parents.

The results of its fourth annual survey published today show that almost nine out of ten parents know the inspection grade of their child's school or childcare provider. 

It also found that fewer than one in five parents were aware that outstanding schools were exempt from routine inspection.

It also argued that moving to a below- or above-the-line system would make the system even more high stakes than the current good/requires improvement cut-off, because all the providers placed below the line would be in a single "failed" category.

It also argues that not providing an inspection grade could lead to the system becoming even more reliant on attainment or progress outcomes as the main measure.

"This in turn could increase behaviours such as off-rolling and gaming the exam system," the report adds. 

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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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