New Ofsted inspections must value the role and needs of parents

15/10/18

Parentkind gives a cautious welcome to news (announced by Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman) that Ofsted, the schools inspectorate in England, is to make substantial changes to the way it inspects schools from September 2019. The proposed changes will shift the emphasis away from exam results and take a more holistic view of a child's school experience. It's hoped that the knock-on effect will reduce teacher workload and enable a richer curriculum to be taught in each school, putting educators off 'teaching to the test'. However, the detail on how these changes will be achieved is crucial.

We want parents to have their say in Ofsted’s new framework

In January, Ofsted will consult on their proposed changes, which means parents will be able to give their views. Parentkind will survey parental opinion, inviting as many parents as possible to take part, so that we can present evidence to Ofsted that is truly reflective of those they serve.

What do parents currently think of Ofsted?

We asked parents for their views of Ofsted in May 2018 at the request of the National Audit Office (NAO) to contribute to their ‘value for money’ inquiry. Out of those who responded, the results offered a mixed picture, revealing that parents:

  • Understood what Ofsted does (83%)
  • Looked at their reports when choosing a school (55%)
  • Found it easy to understand Ofsted’s written reports (65%)
  • Filled in an Ofsted questionnaire in response to their child’s school’s inspection (69%)
  • Used Ofsted’s online Parent View feedback form (54%).

Although their level of understanding and engagement with Ofsted was quite high, their confidence in the value of Ofsted was proportionally lower:

  • Only 24% said that Ofsted’s inspection report was important to them when choosing a school place for their child
  • 81% did not think that the Ofsted report was as important as location and local reputation when considering applying for a school place for their child
  • 37% disagreed that the result of their child’s school’s last inspection was fair
  • 15% agreed that the Ofsted process led to an improvement at their child’s school
  • 27% agreed that Parent View is useful to parents.

There is a disparity between the proportion using Parent View (54%) and their confidence in it (27%), where it is possible that the majority of parents use Parent View to highlight a problem but see no action taken. Despite these findings, 60% told us that they value having an independent body assessing how well their child’s school is performing, which shows that the majority of parents agree with the role of Ofsted in principle, but have reservations about its current practice. Only 15% agreed or strongly agreed that they trust the judgments Ofsted makes, and only 21% agreed that Ofsted values the views of parents.

Is Ofsted losing credibility in the eyes of parents?

In our latest Annual Parent Survey, when it came to options for the top three criteria of a successful school, the most popular answers were children’s happiness (55%), followed by children enjoying learning (44%) and children learning positive behaviours such as resilience and self-confidence (41%).  Only 24% of respondents chose being rated good or outstanding by school inspectors as part of their top three. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC's) report into Ofsted's inspection of schools in July 2018 reflected a similar lack of confidence in the inspectorate amongst parents, finding that Ofsted is, “…not providing the level of independent assurance about the quality of education that schools and parents need.” Part of the problem, they said, was that, “Ofsted does not give parents enough opportunity to contribute their views as part of school inspections,” and they recommended, “Ofsted should set out its plans, with specific actions and target dates, for collecting more and better evidence from parents about schools.”

Parentkind supports the PAC’s recommendations, and hopes that Ofsted goes much further in valuing the role of parents, both in enhancing children’s education and in their new inspection model, which would go some way to rebuilding confidence in the validity of their assessment among the parent community and providing them with the “fuller picture” that they propose.

What might the new Ofsted inspections look like?

Amanda Spielman claims that by taking focus away from outcomes, they will remove the incentive for schools to put results ahead of children’s needs, where such practice will reflect badly on the school in its report.
The consultation will gauge opinion on the introduction of a new judgment for ‘quality of education’, which will replace ‘outcomes for pupils’ and ‘teaching, learning and assessment’ with a broader, single judgment. Three other inspection judgments that Ofsted will consult on are:

  • Personal development
  • Behaviour and attitudes
  • Schools’ leadership and management.

Parentkind will continue to champion the role of parents to Ofsted

Parentkind’s Acting CEO Michelle Doyle Wildman has said, “Ofsted inspections should include an assessment of how well a school engages parents: considering whether it takes a whole-school approach to engagement; incorporating it into its improvement planning; and assessing whether parents feel valued as partners in their child’s education. This shift towards a more ‘parent-friendly’ culture may not only improve parent satisfaction but may also provide more tangible information for parents to consider when they do review Ofsted reports.” 

She adds, “It’s important Ofsted puts parents and children at the heart of the inspection process and works with schools to do this too.”

See Parentkind’s article in Tes and letter to the Guardian for more on how we think Ofsted can respond to and meet the role and needs of parents.

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