Home Politics OFSTED Standards – Should do what they say on the tin

OFSTED Standards – Should do what they say on the tin

by Barry
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Having heard Mr Gove say that standards in schools should rise and those schools which are ‘only’ at Satisfactory will be driven to do better by turning them into Academy’s, I thought that this can’t really be right can it?

These standards exist so that Parents can look at the rating to have confidence that the school is doing what it should be.  On the face of it, if a school received an inadequate rating, then I would take that as a bad thing and avoid it.  However if it got Satisfactory, then I would look at that and think that it meets the fundamental needs of my child.  Granted it may not have amazing bells and whistles, but it should be able to educate my child. 

Even when you look at all the descriptions of the ratings:



Exceptional:  All or most elements of the school’s work are at least good, and significant elements are exemplary.
Good Inspectors should consider the judgement good when:

  • there is generally strong performance across all aspects of a school’s work
  • the capacity to improve is strong, as shown by its recent improvement.

A school may be good in a variety of ways, and may have pockets of excellence, but no school should be judged good if its performance is merely ordinary.

No school can be judged to be good unless learners are judged to make good progress.

Satisfactory The school’s work is inadequate in no major area, and may be good in some respects.

A school is likely to be inadequate if one or more of the following are judged to be inadequate: the standards achieved; learners’ personal development and well-being; the overall quality of provision; leadership and management. The sixth form or Foundation Stage might also be inadequate, but where the numbers are small this does not necessarily lead to the judgement that the school as a whole is inadequate. At its worst, the school provides an unacceptable standard of education and it lacks the capacity to turn things round.


So this leads me to two issues, One : what is wrong with being Satisfactory?  And Two, Surely those schools who are doing above satisfactory should be looked at for Over-performing?  Are they wasting Tax Payers money by delivering too much and could that effort be better directed to lesser achieving schools?  In business if you are constantly delivering more than what the customer is requiring, then you are wasting profit margin, does the same apply here?

In fact, what I think has happened is that the Bar has been lifted.  Parents do not want their children to go to a “Satisfactory” school if there is a Good or Outstanding one on offer.  This is probably driven by not understanding the baseline used to determine what Satisfactory is.   Our only guide really is the words and Good and outstanding sound better that Satisfactory which infers that it is only just good enough.

So, the scale should either be reworded (maybe something like Really Underperforming, Under Performing, Just right, Over Performing) or a Satisfactory needs to be just that, the school is good enough.  And then clearly define what that Good Enough is.  Then when monitoring the schools, it has to be realised that too much needs to be reigned in as much as too little.  Or an understanding of what the impact of too much really is.

Now, if I was going to be really radical, I would like to suggest that this should be linked to employability.  Are we actually educating our students in things that will make them attractive to employers.  Otherwise what is the point?  And in this I would include up and perhaps beyond Degrees.  Why should the state fund courses and syllabi that the state doesn’t need?  It could be a powerful motivator if these tuition fees were scaled appropriately to future job predictions.   Just a thought.

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Mark November 25, 2010 - 2:05 pm

Hey Baz,

Making a habit of chiming in on here!!

My wife’s a Primary School Teacher in a school which is currently rated as Good. Ofsted is the bane of her life to be fair and I think I won’t get in trouble in saying that people know when Ofsted are coming in (give or take a week) and will “Up their game” to cover the bases…..hence making it an inaccurate measure a lot of the time anyway.

One thing to point out though from your blog, is that yes the school gets an overall score on that scale, but each of the departments in that school also get a score. Hence a school that is Outstanding at arts and English (for example) may be only a Satisfactory (or sometimes underachieve) in another area (such as Science).

Other factors are also on there including rating the school’s leadership team and facilities etc.

Parents using Ofsted reports to choose which school to send their sproglet to should always take the whole report into account rather than just the headline. If (when I eventually do have kids) my child is a prodigy at science I’m going to look for a school with amazing Science facilities and teaching. So in a way I agree, there’s nothing wrong with being satisfactory, as long as the school suits the child.

Now, before this sounds like I agree with your point completely (Perish the thought!) Being good or outstanding doesn’t necessarily mean that the school is overspending tax payer wise, it just means that they are following the Ofsted approved guidelines on how the school should be run, there are plenty of schools that are not so well off (like my wife’s) that are rated good, and plenty of schools in affluent areas that are not performing as well. A large portion comes down to the quality of the teachers and their willingness to embrace modern teaching techniques to make the children as productive as possible.

I do agree however that there has to be a better way of reviewing schools other than Ofsted or results tables, employability is hard to measure based on the fact that that it’s very subjective around which career path to chose! I guess we shall see what the future brings…although please not more Ofsted inspections, my Wife’s about ready to punch the next inspector who walks into the school!



Eddie November 25, 2010 - 2:52 pm

You seem to be saying what is wrong with being second best here Barry.

As an employer I have to say that so many of our young people leave School without being able to read and write, that I sometimes despair.

I had an email only last week asking for a programmers job, because he thought it was “KOOL”, all in upper case letters.

I replied pointing this out and asking about his math skills.

The reply was one line:


bazkirby November 25, 2010 - 3:13 pm

Mark, Participation is good 🙂 But your right, you should look at the whole raft of data, not just the headline. Unfortunatly Im not sure that people do! Though, I presume, you could not get an overall good if you had satisfactories. And at a young age, we don’t really know if our sprogs are going to be Artists, scientists or engineers. (I have bets on my girls, but I have no Idea about Leo yet).

Eddie – I think you missed my point, its not about second best, what I am asking is what is wrong with being Satisfactory, if you take the meaning to be “Good Enough”. What actually defines satisfactory. And given Goves intervention, then its clear that Satisfactory is not satisfactory, thefore it is misleading.

While your right, kids do leave school not being able to write in the way we would like, I think this exemplifies my point that the way it is judged is not working. Though I would say that the vast majority of people I see do have good communication skills.

Going back to Marks point on overachieving schools, I think your right that its not always just cash that makes higher report catagories. But I woudl be concerned if it was, and the more I think abuot it, the harder it is. I guess what I am thinking is if there is an outstanding school, effort should be made to determine why and pass those lessons on. In it is down to the leadership, then can they help elsewhere, if it is down to superior resources then what do we learn from that?

But overall, I think the system has missed the point, if every school gets outstanding, then the measure has failed. Most schools should be geting Satisfactory and if this is not good enough, then I think the measure has failed.

I think people judge this as a league table, when it should not be, it should be a ‘simple’ statement on competence of that school (and that school only) and is it good enough!

Eddie November 25, 2010 - 3:36 pm

Good enough is second best. In my business I try to give the best possible service, not satisfactory service. If I didn’t why would people come to me ?

bazkirby November 25, 2010 - 4:21 pm

But that is exactly my point – Schools are not a business and should not be in competition, I should be able to send my kids to any school and they should recieve the same standard of education regardless.

I would argue your example though. If Good enough is second best, then why do you have 3 tiers of service? If you always aim to give the “best possible service” surely everyone would get the maximum tier for the minimum cost. But this would not provide a suitable return for you.

You have many satisfied customers because you give them a level of service that you have defined and you deliver what you said you would, and probably over and above that to a certain extent.

The main analogous point is that you have DEFINED a level of service, and when you meet that, then that is satisfactory and the customer should expect that, as what they have paid for. You then ensure you give greater customer service and perhaps a level of service slightly higher than what they paid for, as this is your competative edge and wins you more business.

State Schools should not have to win business, they ALL should be able to deliver a standard of education that is satisfactory to the pupils and their Parents.

Joe K November 25, 2010 - 5:31 pm

It seems like for the ‘positive’ ratings, you have ‘satisfactory’ and above, but for poor performance, you have only ‘inadequate’. Below that should be ‘evil’ and whatever the opposite of ‘outstanding’ is (‘inconspicuous’?).

But seriously, these ratings are about politics. Politicians don’t like the sound of ‘satisfactory’, unless they’re really in a corner, and trying to avoid ‘incompetent’ or ‘not fit for purpose’…

Eddie November 25, 2010 - 5:38 pm

That is silly Barry. Do you really think the local comprehensive will give the same standard as say Harrow ? Of course not. Even in your own party the number of mps giving private education to their kids is as high as any other party.

Your anology is false. I give everyone the same level of service. I just happen to have 3 products for sale, but the level of support is the same.

bazkirby November 25, 2010 - 5:52 pm

Harrow is a private school. That can have whatever standards it wants, as it gets private funding. They are a business! Your comparing apples with oranges.

We are talking state funded state schools! So no its not silly! and I resent that level of belittlement!

Its obvious you did not read what I wrote and just seem to read some form of attack, which it was not! I was trying to use your example to show the difference between a business and the need for discriminators and a standard funding system where there should not be competition, but a standard of delivery.

Eddie November 26, 2010 - 9:12 am

Sorry you feel that way. It wasnt meant that way

Joe K November 26, 2010 - 9:41 am

This reminds me of a discussion I dimly recall from some hears ago. The premise put forward by one person was that those who offered the ‘best’ service, pulling out all the stops, risked pricing themselves out of the market (and I changed ‘were’ to ‘risked’, but frankly, it’s a no-brainer that most people don’t buy their beans at Harrods when they can get them cheaper from Tesco). If you offer the ‘best’ service, and keep prices down to what other, less diligent companies are offering, it goes without saying that your overheads are going to be higher.

I remember a friend of a friend in Northampton telling us of his plans to set up a delivery business. His USP would be that as well as delivering goods, he would install them as well, whether it be washing machines or computers. I never found out if he got it going, but the drawbacks of trying to be a jack of all trades seemed clear to me. To specialise in one thing, and do it well, but economically, seems like the wise course.

That’s exactly what schools do now, of course, by specialising in teaching pupils to pass exams, rather than teaching them knowledge, and the joy of knowledge.

bazkirby November 26, 2010 - 2:40 pm

“That’s exactly what schools do now, of course, by specialising in teaching pupils to pass exams, rather than teaching them knowledge, and the joy of knowledge.”

And that is one of the reasons we home educate 😉


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