Q How many years of results do inspectors look at to make judgments about whether children are making adequate progress?

A Inspectors will be interested in any discernible trends in results. There may be hiccups, but are they generally moving up or down the scale? If standards are low, is the school at least narrowing the gap?

In schools with very small cohorts, and particularly in primary schools, it may be useful to look at the previous three years' results as a means of identifying factors that could, in one year alone, be an artefact of the small numbers. For example, in a one form entry school, it might look from one year's results as though girls have done much less well than boys.

Because each girl might represent, say, 7 per cent of the girls' cohort, then the figures might be skewed by the performance of just one child.

If, however, results over the previous three years indicate that boys are always doing better than girls, then that is likely to be more significant.

Naturally, inspectors will focus most on the most recent results. Where these are different from previous years, they will obviously want to satisfy themselves (which will probably mean that they will expect the school to show them evidence) that the most recent results are not an aberration. If previous results were low and last year's shot up, inspectors will want to know how that has been achieved and whether the improvement can be sustained. If results last year seem to have plummeted, schools will be anxious to explain that this was a "blip", and inspectors will want to assure themselves that the school knows why it occurred and has taken appropriately effective remedial action.

Q How do inspectors make judgments about progress in the reception year?

A Progress in reception is usually measured by comparing children's entry profiles with the standards being demonstrated through children's work and play. Increasingly, inspectors rely on the foundation stage profiles, which more readily allow comparisons to be made across schools in different local authorities. In the past, there was much greater proliferation of different schemes for measuring foundation stage standards

Selwyn Ward draws on years of inspection experience. The views expressed here are his own. To ask him a question contact him at askaninspector@tes.co.ukSelwyn regularly answers your Ofsted questions on our forums at www.tes.co.ukstaffroominspection

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