Leaders question Ofsted’s positive spin on inspections

Watchdog refuses to release a breakdown of survey figures quoted by Spielman

Watchdog refuses to release a breakdown of survey figures quoted by Spielman

12 Dec 2021, 5:00

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Ofsted has been accused of “cherry-picking” data to give a positive spin on schools’ experiences of inspections this term.

Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector, claimed this week that “well over 90 per cent” of schools had reported positively on visits since September.

The inspectorate, under pressure over inspections while schools continue to face Covid disruption, has refused to release a breakdown of the figures Spielman quoted, which form part of this year’s post-inspection survey responses. The survey will be published next week.

However, previous data from these surveys suggests schools given higher ratings are far more likely to respond.

In 2019-20, just 54 per cent of schools inspected responded to the survey. but while 62 per cent of schools graded ‘outstanding’ took part, just 35 per cent of those rated ‘inadequate’ gave their views.

About twice as many schools who received the top two grades responded compared to the bottom grades.

Julie McCulloch, the director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, said that if Ofsted made claims that most schools had a positive experience … “it should provide the survey data at the same time so that we can see the detail”.

She said the union had received feedback from some schools that had “a very negative” experience, “which should be of most concern to the inspectorate”.

Ofsted ‘cherry-picking’ data

Ros McMullen, of the headteachers’ wellbeing helpline Headrest, said Ofsted was “cherry-picking” the data.

“It’s 90 per cent of 50 per cent – that is not a satisfaction rate it would approve of if it was given to it by schools.”

The watchdog has refused to reveal how many deferral requests from schools disrupted by Covid it has turned down, despite Spielman saying this week that “more than three quarters” of requests were granted.

This is a sharp rise on the two-thirds that Ofsted said had been granted as of mid-November.

When asked by Schools Week to reveal the figures under the Freedom of Information Act, Ofsted said “disclosing this information is likely to have a negative impact on our inspection activity”.

This was because it considered requests on a “case-by-case basis” and the figures might create “expectations” for outcomes from particular types of requests, it said.

McCulloch said ASCL could not understand the response.  “This is an issue of critical importance and we would urge the inspectorate to be fully transparent.”

Ofsted refused to comment further.

‘Nearly all children’ impacted by Covid

The watchdog’s annual report for 2020-21, released this week, found that “nearly all children” were impacted by Covid-19 and the subsequent disruption.

Spielman explained this meant “for too many, achievements were disappointingly small, despite the tremendous effort” of teachers, parents and pupils.

Pupils “struggled with a hokey-cokey education” in and out of the classroom, she said.

The report lacked the usual data insights as routine inspections were suspended for large parts of the year. Instead, it focused on how the pandemic affected the sector.

Across the year, 33 per cent of pupils moved out of state schools for an “unknown destination” – up from 29 per cent the year before.

Ofsted also highlighted a 78 per cent increase in the number of alternative provision (AP) placements in independent schools, commissioned by councils, over the past ten years.

Nearly two in five pupils stay in PRUs, academy AP or free school AP for more than a year.

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