All About Ofsted Reports
When looking at schools for your child, a useful way to discover more about the schools in your area is by reading Ofsted reports. Ofsted - the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills - is the Government body that inspects and regulates all state-funded and some independent schools. Ofsted inspectors regularly visit schools and publish the results of their findings in reports on their website.
Locating a ReportOn the Internet, you can find reports by searching the school's name using the search engine on the top of the Ofsted website (www.ofsted.gov.uk). Alternatively use the 'Inspection reports' section, where you can either carry out a postcode search or browse through the local authority listings.
Alternatively, contact the school directly. It is mandatory for each school to produce the report if you ask for it, but if you request the report from a school where your child is not studying, the school is permitted to charge you a fee for photocopying the report.
Be aware that some schools will not be inspected. Ofsted usually inspect new schools for the first time in their second year of existence. While they inspect all state-maintained schools, the only inspect the independent schools which are not members of the Independent Schools Council (ISC). The ISC has its own inspectorate, with reports published on its own website.
Reading the reportsThe first section of each report contains the same basic information about a school. This includes its contact details, a map of its location, pupils' gender (mixed, female, male), age range (e.g. 4-11) and number of pupils on roll - this is the total number of students at the school, and is updated in January each year.
The 'characteristics' section provides a description of the school (whether it is primary or secondary), its religious character (for example, non-denominational or Church of England); boarding provision (whether the school is a boarding school) and whether it has 'specialist status'. This latter point is only applicable for secondary schools, and refers to the government scheme where some schools apply to have a special focus on one of ten specialist subjects - arts, business & enterprise, engineering, humanities, languages, mathematics & computing, music, science, sports and technology.
Next, the report itself. A summary of the school's inspection, including whether it has been placed in 'special measures' - when a school is failing to meet government requirements on education standards -will be evident on the first page report in a letter to the headteacher. From page two, each report is divided into more categories:
- Evidence - this is what the inspectors saw during their school visit, and may include the school's work, meeting governors and viewing documents
- Context - how long the headteacher has been at the school, and its overall picture of staffing
- Achievements and standards- this addresses academic attainment. At primary school level, it will focus on maths and literacy. Secondary school reports will include statistics such as GCSE results.
- Personal development and well being - this describes pupil behaviour and relationship with teachers.
- Quality of provision - this focuses on teaching, including the quality of lesson planning, targets and marking.
- Leadership and management - assesses the quality of leadership from the headteacher and heads of subject/year.
- External support - how the school is supported by the local authority.
- Priorities for further improvement - lists targets for the school to better its performance.