Confidence in accuracy of new inspections falls, long-awaited full Ofsted survey shows

Fewer schools think Ofsted’s new inspections are accurate and clear, full survey results finally released by the watchdog have revealed.

Ofsted has today published the full responses to it post-inspection surveys, which includes those dating back to 2015 under the old framework.

It follows a Freedom of Information request battle by Schools Week to get the data released after Ofsted publicised a “snapshot” containing just three findings in March, one of which was that nearly nine in ten schools are “satisfied” with the new inspection regime.

Ofsted’s chief inspector Amanda Spielman claimed the selected findings showed dissenters of the new inspections were a “small and vocal minority”.

But the full data shows a slightly different story. First of all, the findings pushed by Ofsted seem slightly skewed as fewer “inadequate” schools responded. Unsurprisingly, lower-rated schools were more likely to be unsatisfied with their inspection.

Confidence in accuracy of new inspection reports falls

It’s not possible to compare satisfaction levels to previous frameworks as the question was asked for the first time this year. Many of the questions for this year are different to those asked previously.

But there does appear to be a drop in state-funded schools believing that inspection reports accurately reflect their provision.

In this year’s survey, 87 per cent of respondents said they either strongly agreed or agreed that their inspection report reflected what it was like to be a child at the school.

This year’s survey only includes schools inspected until the end of March, when Ofsted was stood down because of the coronavirus crisis.

But between September 2015 and August 2019, 93 per cent of schools strongly agreed or agreed that their inspection report accurately reflects their provision.

When asked if the inspection report was clear this year, 91 per cent agreed overall, down on 96 per cent in previous years.

The drop is clearer when broken down: only 56 per cent ‘strongly agreed’ with the statement this year, whereas 77 per cent ‘strongly agreed’ in the previous four years.

Meanwhile, 87 per cent of schools said their report this year was consistent with the oral feedback given.

A similar question in previous years, on whether the report accurately reflected discussions with inspectors, showed that 94 per cent agreed.

Satisfaction levels plunge for lower-rated schools

Just looking at this year’s findings shows not everyone is totally on board with the new inspections.

On the new “deep dive” methodology, only half of schools strongly agreed that it allowed inspectors to understand the school’s quality of education.

Another 34 per cent agreed, while 7 per cent neither agreed nor disagree and 8 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed.

But just 54 per cent of the 3,222 schools inspected responded to the survey (which is a similar response rate to previous years).

Of these, only 35 per cent of schools judged ‘inadequate’ and 44 per cent ‘requires improvement” responded. That compares to 62 and 60 per cent of ‘outstanding’ and ‘good’ schools, respectively.

A breakdown of the finding previously promoted by Spielman, that 89 per cent of schools were satisfied with their inspection this year, unsurprisingly shows that ‘outstanding’ schools were more likely to agreed.

Every ‘outstanding’ school surveyed was satisfied with how the inspection was carried out, compared to 59 per cent of ‘inadequate’ schools and 69 per cent of ‘requires improvement’ schools.

Publication of the positive figures in March followed growing criticism of the watchdog’s new curriculum-focused inspections.

But when Schools Week, under the freedom of information act, asked for the full survey results, Ofsted refused. It said releasing data for the first five months of the new framework would be “inappropriate” and “potentially misleading”.

Ofsted also justified its refusal in April by saying it intended release a wider set of survey data “in the future”, although it did not confirm when this would be.

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  1. Mark Watson

    It would be astonishing if, after a concerted and persistent campaign to denigrate Ofsted by Unions, the Labour Party, Schools Week etc, the profession’s confidence in it wasn’t knocked.

    I say that without any inference that Ofsted’s inspections are better, or worse, or the same, as before.

  2. Richard John

    “one of which was that nearly nine in ten schools are “satisfied” with the new inspection regime.”

    Since Satisfactory in ofsted parlance became requires improvement I wonder how much faith we should have in that statement.

  3. Felicity Leslie

    It is worth looking at OFSTED on Wikipedia & elsewhere & the criticisms & comments about its failure & the lack of inspectors with no teaching experience etc. And the organisation set up to
    ‘ look at ‘ OFSTED. Plus the salaries of some of the OFSTED chiefs eg £195000 – £199000 . What an enormous waste of money which could be better used on the children / schools.
    Would be much more useful for teachers / schools to have decent advisors if needed in certain subjects, areas or with children with special needs etc & help not unhelpful reports etc from OFSTED.

  4. Felicity Leslie

    Amanda Spielman has an interesting background but I believe no actual teaching experience….worth looking at a lot of those who make comments & judgements on schools etc.

    • Mark Watson

      Since the redoubtable Estelle Morris we’ve had nine Education Secretaries – four Labour and five Conservative. None of them were teachers either.

      Whilst clearly it should be a positive thing to have been a teacher in a classroom, the leadership and management of an organisation like Ofsted is as far removed from teaching as it is from accountancy. The CEO of Coca-Cola doesn’t need to have spent years making soft drinks.

  5. Don Salseby

    @MarkWatson alleges a “concerted campaign”, teetering on the edge of a conspiracy theory. The truth is simply that Ofsted manages to condemn itself unaided by any conspiracy of enemies, by its actions, poor standards, and incendiary comments by some of its senior staff. Robust and unfettered dialogue within the profession, in the pages of the media and on social media, by practitioners and leaders concerned with improving the quality of education in the UK, quite rightly highlights Ofsted’s many highly damaging deficiencies, and suggests much better ways of bringing about system improvement and accountability than a model conceived in the 90s.

    • Mark Watson

      But there isn’t really “dialogue” is there? That would require a conversation behind people with differing views, as opposed to what I’ve seen over the last months which is an unabashed pile-on. As I said initially, I’m not defending Ofsted’s performance in any way, and I’m very prepared to accept the criticism is justified. I’m just pointing out that when a survey asks for opinions, the outcome is going to be affected by recent media coverage, and if that has been universally negative then that’s going to be reflected in the survey’s results.

      Making a cliched jibe of “conspiracy theory” doesn’t really add to the debate, unless you were to put forward examples of positive stories. Always rather telling when someone describes their own opinions as “the truth”.

  6. Eric Fairchild

    I think that the Ofsted framework that was introduced last year was a backwards step with its de-emphasis on attainment data. Yes, we all understand the need to have a broad and balanced school curriculum but children live in a competitive world where they will be judged on their personal educational achievements. The previous framework incentivised schools to improve outcomes whereas the current one really doesn’t.

  7. Terry Pearson

    Ofsted really should make it very clear that responses to inspection surveys should not be used to indicate general views of inspection or of the inspection framework. The responses to the latest survey do not, and cannot, show that ‘nearly nine in ten schools are satisfied with the new inspection regime’. What’s more they cannot show that dissenters of the new inspections were a ‘small and vocal minority’. Such claims are inexcusably misleading.

    It may be true that 88.6% of responses to the survey were in agreement with the statement that they were satisfied with the way the inspection was carried out, but it needs to be noted that just 54% of the schools inspected responded to the survey. This means that of all schools inspected only 47.8% said they were satisfied with the way the inspection was carried out (assuming each school submits only one response). So, Ofsted really hasn’t got a clue what more than half of the schools inspected think of the way their inspection was carried out!