21st September 2007 at 01:00
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

Q If the success of a school inspection is based upon the standards a school achieves, then at least 20 per cent of all schools are doomed to fail, aren't they? And even if standards rose overall, wouldn't there always be 20 per cent of schools judged as underperforming? Surely the success of one school has to be at the expense of another as it pushes it down the league table.

A I am not disputing the statistics, just the underlying assumption that all inspections are solely predicated on CVA (Contextual Value Added). Inspectors should all be well aware of the fact that test data is historic. It will give an indication of where pupils appear to have exceeded or underperformed in relation to averages, but if things have moved on since those tests, then schools can show inspectors their evidence for this and inspectors will weigh that against the historic data. Case in point: I recently inspected a school with very poor 2006 Sats, and poor CVA. The local authority had since given the school a lot of support, and the school had signed up to and had enthusiastically embraced the Intensifying Support Programme to change the way it identified and gave intervention support to pupils falling behind. As a result, when I came to inspect the school, it had moved forward. Pupils were making satisfactory progress and we had measurable evidence that they were increasingly catching up on previously lost ground.

On the face of the pre-inspection evidence, this school looked highly likely to be in special measures or given notice to improve because of underachievement; as it turned out, the inspection finding was that things were now satisfactory and on track for further improvement.

Q If you are applying for a new job can the headteacher of that school get any information about you from Ofsted?

A Absolutely not. Ofsted doesn't even hold information on individual teachers. Inspectors do not record teachers' names or other identification on their evidence forms and those forms are, in any event, only kept to check the quality of the evidence and to respond in the case of any complaints. Once the period for complaints has passed (three months but extended if a complaint is lodged), all inspection evidence is destro ***

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