Spielman: Ofsted inspectors know Progress 8 'isn't perfect'

Ofsted inspectors know that progress scores don’t “paint the whole picture” of school quality, Amanda Spielman has said today, as she rejected accusations of bias against disadvantaged schools.

The chief inspector of schools warned delegates at an Education Policy Institute conference that government performance tables do not show “what schools aren’t doing”, and claimed inspectors are aware that progress 8 “isn’t a perfect measure of progress”.

Ofsted came under fire last month after its own data revealed that schools in the most affluent areas are more than twice as likely to be rated ‘outstanding’ as those in the most deprived, leading to accusations of bias against the poorest schools and an over-reliance on performance data.

But Spielman said the charge that “data is all” had been “clearly disproved” by analysis in Ofsted’s last annual report, which found that schools rated ‘good’ had a “wide range” of positive and negative progress 8 scores.

However, Ofsted’s data also shows a “big difference” between the progress 8 scores of schools with many poor white pupils and those with few, Spielman admitted.

For example, recent data published by Ofsted which showed that secondary schools without many poor white pupils that were judged good at their last inspection achieved a “premium” progress 8 score of 0.2, while those with lots of poor white pupils had an average score of -0.1, a difference of 0.3 points.

“That’s a big difference,” said Spielman, who said the “same pattern of difference between progress 8 levels for high and low disadvantage schools applies in fact to all our judgements”.

“So rather than suggesting a bias against high-disadvantage schools, if anything the data shows that our inspectors are showing through their judgements their awareness that progress 8 isn’t a perfect measure of progress and that it’s not painting the whole picture of educational quality in secondary schools.”

According to Spielman, Ofsted’s new inspection framework, which is due to take effect in September 2019, will focus the conversation “even further” on education itself “rather than just about data”.

“This is the human element that Ofsted exists to bring to the accountability process. You can’t create a precise, codified rule for what good looks like. And no performance table can tell you very much about what schools aren’t doing. They’re not very revealing about what isn’t happening, or about who isn’t being educated. And it’s that interest in ‘why’ and ‘what’ that’s been driving our work on curriculum.”

Although the current set of performance measures used by the government are “as good as they have ever been”, Spielman wants to ensure that Ofsted focuses on “what performance tables cannot capture”, to get to the “clearest view of whether schools and the MATs to which they belong are doing the right things”.