12th October 2007 at 01:00
Q) How feasible is it that a school might lose its outstanding grading on its next inspection? Is this common? What will happen when everyone addresses their issues for action and all become outstanding? Will we all be perfect?

A) This is an impossible question because every school is different. Sometimes schools change enormously in character because of staff changes. There are schools that show improvement moving, for example, from special measures to good and there are schools that slide. Having said that, there have been many schools that have been judged excellent in their previous inspections, so there are plenty of examples of schools that sustain their strengths over the years. Ofsted publishes a list, just as it does of the most improved schools. Having inspected one or two of the schools on Ofsted's list, I'd say that the secret was that they don't think they are perfect. Outstanding, and excellent before it, have never meant perfect. The most effective schools are those where school leaders realise that they cannot rest on their laurels, and through a process of rigorous and regular self-evaluation, seek further improvement. The schools that are more likely to slip are those where complacency sets in.

A) What are Ofsted's views on displays? Are they essential or desirable?

A) Inspectors certainly notice displays. They are often a valuable source of evidence, for example, of pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. They may also be important in contributing to a stimulating learning environment for the pupils. If displays are put together with seeming little care or interest, it would not be surprising if children adopt a similar attitude in their work. Having said that, I have never heard of a school being judged as failing because of poor displays. Similarly, though fantastic displays may be effective in papering over the cracks, they are not going to fool inspectors into thinking that a failing school is doing a good job.

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

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