How do we rate schools?

How do we rate schools?

The death of Caversham Primary School headteacher Ruth Perry is a tragedy of huge proportions.

This is of particular poignancy if the results of the Ofsted inspection about her Reading school led to her suicide.

But there has been no inquest yet and only after that inquiry will we know the full circumstances surrounding her death.

However, if an Ofsted report did play a part then we must focus on whether it was accurate and correct, or not.

To slip from ‘outstanding’ to ‘inadequate’ is quite a fall for a school even over a period of 13 years.

Perhaps the telling part is that the report found the school ‘good’ in every category apart from ‘leadership and management’.

One can imagine the impact of this on a headteacher who by all accounts was dedicated, much-loved and had done a good job.

A vast number of former ‘outstanding’ schools have been downgraded by Ofsted inspectors after new criteria were introduced in 2019.

But to sum up a school with one word such as ‘outstanding’ or ‘inadequate’ leaves no room for nuance.

But before ditching the system, we need to ask two questions.

Firstly, are the criteria by which schools are being judged correct?

A serious review of the system of grading needs to happen. The academic progress of the children must be part of this as well as a series of other criteria that fairly judge the school’s performance.

Secondly, if the criteria are justifiable, how well are they being implemented? Schools must feel they have been fairly judged.

I don’t see anything wrong with a system of judging schools. It is absolutely essential that schools are held accountable for the services they provide.

However, their judgements must be correct.

Some years ago I worked in a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) which was very well run.

It provided support to children who were educationally challenged and vulnerable.

Almost all of the teachers received an Ofsted grade 1 (including myself) and almost every provision in the centre was judged to be appropriate and the educational outcomes were good considering the difficulties the children were facing.

However, because one teacher out of a staff of around 15 in our centre failed their Ofsted inspection, the whole centre was put into ‘special measures’.

The teacher concerned was monitored and had to undergo more training and only after another visit from Ofsted was the ’special measures’ tag lifted.

This seemed rather extreme at the time and tarnished the excellent skills of the other teachers in the unit.

The inspection appeared to be a blunt instrument and obviously needed to be more carefully applied and targeted.

Like the inspection of Caversham Primary School, just one area found wanting meant the entire institution was downgraded.

I’m concerned about abandoning Ofsted inspections or taking away basic gradings, as they should be a good summary of school’s overall performance.

I just make a plea that it is carefully reviewed and Ofsted inspectors are better trained to deliver it.