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Q I work in a school which has poor key stage 2 results. The local authority is in a panic about them but I don't see how it can be right to draw any conclusion as the cohort is so small. There are just 10 children and four have special needs. What will inspectors think of this?

A You are correct in stressing the need for real caution in viewing statistics based on small cohorts. With a unit of 10, each child makes a difference of more than 10 per cent - so it would not be unusual to see wild fluctuations from year to year. The new-style Contextualised Value Added in RAISEonline, the web-based system which is a single source of school data and analysis, may help. It shows the school's results, with a bar representing the degree of confidence the school can have in judging relative performance. My guess is that your school's overall results on this measure will have quite a wide confidence bar and though the centre may fall below or even well below average, this will only really be significant if the bar is completely below the average line. That doesn't mean that small schools can get away with poor performance. In a school like yours, inspectors might look at results over the three years for which they will have data. If the results are consistently low during that time, it might indicate a pattern of underachievement. The measure also now contains a scattergraph showing how well each child has done in their KS2 tests, relative to the results they were expected to get when their KS1 and other contextual factors are taken into account. The important thing is that the school will need to demonstrate it is keeping proper track of pupils' progress, that it knows how well they are doing and that it knows, and is doing something about, areas which need to be improved. No-one wants to see schools unnecessarily hassled by their local authority, but it's better than encouraging complacency that might seek to excuse low results by blaming the children, which is what we sometimes see

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

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