More schools get top grades this year, Ofsted data shows

Official analysis of Ofsted outcomes for 2022-23 shows 89 per cent of schools were good or outstanding at their most recent inspection

Official analysis of Ofsted outcomes for 2022-23 shows 89 per cent of schools were good or outstanding at their most recent inspection

17 Jan 2023, 11:34

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A greater proportion of schools have received top grades in Ofsted inspections this academic year than in 2021-22, new data shows.

Management information data shows six per cent of schools inspected were rated ‘outstanding’ in inspections from September 1 to December 31 last year.

Seventy-two per cent received an overall ‘good’ rating.

This compares with five per cent of schools inspected being rated outstanding, and 63 per cent good during the last academic year.

An official analysis shows 89 per cent of all schools were good or outstanding as at the end of 2022, compared with 88 per cent in August 2022.

Ofsted said the initial data showed that “outcomes continue to paint a positive picture, and in some cases are even more positive than last year”.

The figures also show more schools previously judged as requires improvement (RI) gained a better grade last term, with 78 per cent improving to good.

In 2021-22, 70 per cent of previously RI schools improved to good.

More previously outstanding schools retain top grade

Schools rated outstanding were exempt from reinspection between 2012 and 2020, unless inspectors had concerns about their performance or safeguarding arrangements.

Since the exemption was lifted, most of these schools have lost the top grade during reinspection.

But a higher proportion – 21 per cent – have retained the top grade in 2022-23, versus in 2021-22 (17 per cent).

A lower proportion (13 per cent) were also found to be RI or inadequate. Last year, the figure was 21 per cent.

“Overall, the picture since the pandemic is an increasingly positive one. I was particularly pleased to see so many schools that required improvement move to good last term,” Ofsted’s chief inspector Amanda Spielman said.

“I’d like to thank everyone who is involved in helping these schools to improve.”

Ofsted chief warns variability cannot be ‘engineered’ out of inspections

But the improvement in outcomes this year comes amid a backdrop of complaints about inconsistent grades.

Last week, Schools Week revealed inspectors had received further training called “seeing the big picture”.

This was to ensure inspectors knew the framework should not be taken verbatim and that inspectors must not leap to snap judgments that any such issues were endemic in school.

During a speech at Oxford University’s department of Education last night, however, Spielman defended a “degree of variability” within outcomes.

She added that this could not be “engineered out” because the aspects on which HMIs were required to judge schools were a “broad construct”.

“The corollary of this is that so-called perfect reliability is not achievable.”

Ofsted inspectors are required to make judgments on a school’s quality of education, behaviour and attitudes and the personal development of students, as well as its leadership and management.

The introduction of the education inspection framework (EIF) in 2019 also shifted the watchdog’s focus from performance outcomes to curriculum.

‘Data alone cannot measure education quality’

“One of the reasons that inspections continue to exist is precisely because we all recognise that data measures alone cannot carry the entire weight of measuring education quality,” said Spielman.

“Looking under the bonnet at how outcomes are being achieved has real value. There will also therefore always be a degree of variability that cannot be engineered out of inspection.”

While the talk was focused on Ofsted’s use of research evidence, Spielman took pains to explain its approach to consistency – including that perfect reliability was accepted as unachievable in “other areas of life”.

“Driving test examiners, judges passing sentences in court, judges in Olympic sorting events,” she said.

“I’m sure you can think of other examples where we accept that there will be some level of human variation.”

But she emphasised that the body took consistency “very seriously”, adding that the EIF had been designed “with great care to be clear and structured and unambiguous”.

This story has been amended to update figures for the proportion of schools that received an outstanding or good grade in inspections in 2022-23 and 2021-22.

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