Dawn raids out but raw results in at Ofsted

12th June 2009 at 01:00
Heads' unions warn that life could become tougher for struggling schools

Ofsted has backed off from its plan to inspect all schools without warning, but its new framework - announced today - will see inspectors place greater emphasis on "raw" exam results.

While heads' unions have strongly opposed the idea of "dawn raids", Christine Gilbert, chief schools inspector, said she had changed her mind about no-notice visits because parents had complained about not being able to make their views known before such inspections took place.

From September, the watchdog will take into account whether secondaries have met the Government's controversial National Challenge benchmark of 30 per cent of pupils achieving five A*-C GCSEs, including English and Maths.

Heads fear this will make it even harder for schools in deprived areas to achieve good Ofsted ratings and exacerbate their problems by making it more difficult to recruit teachers.

But Ms Gilbert stressed that pupils' progress will be considered alongside "raw" exam results when judging achievement in a school.?

The new inspections framework will also mean that most schools judged "good" or "outstanding" will have five years instead of three between inspections.

Instead, "interim assessments" will be published after three years. These will be based on existing data collected by Ofsted - on test and exam results, attendance, exclusions, and parental views - which will be used to compile new annual risk assessments for all schools.

The proportion of "satisfactory" schools receiving monitoring visits between inspections will increase from 5 per cent to 40 per cent.

Ofsted has also pledged to take greater account of parents' views when deciding when to inspect a school, and staff and pupil surveys will become part of the inspections.

The amount of time inspectors spend observing lessons will double and heads will have more involvement in the process.

Ms Gilbert said: "I want schools to be very clear what it is inspectors are saying. And I want there to be a dialogue during the inspection, so there is a debate (between inspectors and school staff) about what the school should be doing that is captured in some way in the recommendations."

John Dunford, general secretary of heads' union ASCL, said: "Schools in challenging areas have always been judged more harshly by Ofsted and an increased emphasis on raw results may well mean it is even harder for them to get good grades."

But he was pleased the watchdog had not gone ahead with a plan for all schools to receive no-notice inspections. Ms Gilbert said these will be used for schools in special measures, or if there is a child welfare issue or "something that has worried us". Monitoring visits to "satisfactory schools" will also be carried out without notice.

There will be some reduction in notice for all schools, to a maximum of two days from September.

Inspectors will take greater account of schools' capacity to improve and their recommendations will be more explicit.

Operational Changes

  • Greater emphasis on raw results and National Challenge targets
  • Most "good" and "outstanding" schools to be inspected every five years, with publication of interim assessments in between
  • End of light-touch inspections, with all visits lasting two days
  • Most schools given shorter notice of inspections, with range reduced to nought to two days
  • Eight-fold increase in the number of "satisfactory" schools receiving monitoring visits
  • Doubling of time spent observing lessons during inspections
  • More dialogue between schools and inspectors, with joint lesson observations and heads able to attend inspectors' meetings to hear how judgments are reached
  • Streamlined self-evaluation forms.


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