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Receiving Ofsted ratings ‘below good’ can act as a barrier to school improvement

Blog Editor, IOE Digital7 June 2022

Bernardita Munoz-Chereau, Jo Hutchinson and  Melanie Ehren. 

Finding ways to solve the stubborn underperformance of around 580 schools in England is high on the government’s agenda. The Schools White Paper ‘Opportunity for All: Strong schools with great teachers for your child’ sets out the government’s plans over the coming years, with strategies to address schools with successive ‘requires improvement’ (RI) grades.

Yet since 2017 Ofsted has focused on a group of schools judged as ‘requires improvement’, ‘satisfactory’ or ‘inadequate’ in every inspection over more than a decade. Subsequently, Ofsted conducted qualitative case studies of 10 ‘stuck’ and 10 ‘unstuck’ schools. ‘Fight or flight? How ‘‘Stuck’’ schools are overcoming isolation’ reports that ‘stuck’ schools need more targeted assistance, following more thorough and detailed inspections that are not tied to overall grades .

Our two-year mixed-methods research project studying ‘Stuck’ schools’, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, concluded that (more…)

A cultural reset: how to end the Ofsted inspection cycle of fear

Blog Editor, IOE Digital1 May 2018

Melanie Ehren. 
In November 2017, Ofsted’s chief, Amanda Spielman, talked about one of the biggest problems in current education systems: the culture of fear and game-playing around school inspections, where educators for a long time have been guided by external accountability standards and have lost a sense of professionalism. An entire industry has supported schools in getting Ofsted-ready and many teachers and heads would scrutinize any school improvement activity, peer review or school self-evaluation to see how it would help the school get a good Ofsted-grade.
The fear of being classified as a failing school, being named and shamed, losing one’s job or student intake (particularly from high socio-economic backgrounds) has taken away much of the agency from teachers and head teachers to shape their own professional practice. This trend that is sometimes reinforced when large Multi-Academy Trusts introduce strong internal quality control around Ofsted grades and standards (e.g. performance management or peer review).
Ofsted’s ‘myth busting’ campaign, where the agency actively tries to debunk existing (more…)