What Ofsted's annual report says about the role of parents in education



The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (or Ofsted as it is better known) is a non-ministerial department of the UK government, reporting to Parliament. Ofsted is responsible for inspecting a range of educational institutions in England, including state schools and some independent schools.

On Tuesday 4th December 2018, Ofsted released its 2017/18 annual report.

The Chief Inspector of Schools Amanda Spielman introduced the findings during an event live-screened on Twitter.

The Chief Inspector's annual report speech

The launch event made mention of the forthcoming consultation, due in the New Year, where stakeholders including parents will be invited to contribute ideas to how the inspectorate can best serve schools.

We will let you know when this consultation opens so you can respond directly or work with us in our response. 

Headlines from the report are:

  • 95% of early years providers are judged good or outstanding
  • 76% of further education (FE) colleges and 86% of schools are at least good
  • Schools need to get the basics right - focussing on ensuring all children are meeting the required reading and phonics standards
  • SEND children are not getting the support they need
  • Ofsted is concerned that pupils with SEN support are five times more likely to have a permanent exclusion than pupils with no SEND 
  • Schools cannot be expected to be a panacea for all social ills
  • The inspectorate intends to focus on a return to substance and the importance of curriculum following a review in 2019
  • They will work with the Department for Education on ensuring greater multi-academy trust accountability.

The remit of Ofsted, and its role in ensuring schools in England deliver a high quality of education for children, has been under intense scrutiny of late. The Education Committee of MPs' various recent inquiries have asked whether or not Ofsted's focus on exam results as the key criterion for judging schools is creating unintended consequences, and whether or not Ofsted reports provide parents with a rounded view of a school's merits.

Where Ofsted is listening to parents

Parentkind is pleased to hear Ofsted listening to parents in two key areas:

  • Special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Amanda Spielman stated: "Something is deeply wrong when parents repeatedly tell inspectors they have to fight to get support their child needs," adding, that the education system has to "do better" to support children with SEND.
  • 'Off-rolling'. A separate issue to exclusion, when pupils may be temporarily or permanently removed from school for disciplinary or other reasons, off-rolling is the illegal exclusion of pupils who schools fear may not make the necessary progress, which will adversely impact on the school's Progress 8 score and overall Ofsted rating. This issue disproportionately affects SEND pupils, where 30% of SEND children experience off-rolling compared to 13% of children overall.

What Ofsted says about parents – the controversial headlines?

The statement that schools should not be expected to "do parents' jobs for them" has gathered a lot of coverage, in particular, in relation to children arriving at Reception in nappies because they are unable to use a toilet. Parentkind is concerned about Ofsted's finding that a growing number of children are arriving in reception not ready for school and agree the parent role in doing this is vital. The report says, "Rather than expecting educational institutions to pick up the job of parents, parents must step up here," which Parentkind feels unhelpfully frames school readiness in "us versus them" language rather than seeking to engender homes and schools working in partnership to get the best outcomes for every child. This is unfortunate, because in the same paragraph, it is suggested that nurseries should "work with parents to help their children learn" which is clearly desirable.

Parentkind is passionate about supporting parents to support their child's school life and education. That is why we run a Be School Ready campaign every year to give parents guidance on how they and their child can prepare for school, be ready to learn and get off to a great start to school life.

Ofsted's accountability to parents

Ofsted acknowledges in the report that "lengthy periods without inspection are unpopular with parents". Its also acknowledges the need to build more accountability to parents into the education system. Ofsted's remit does not extend to multi-academy trusts and Ms Spielman feels that this means  "that parents and government are missing out on information about an important part of the evolving educational landscape." Parentkind agrees that more thought needs to be given to ensuring the work of schools and MATs is informed by parent views and open to their scrutiny; and how this could be reflected in an Ofsted inspection.

For further reading and other helpful summaries:

The Guardian summarises Ofsted's Annual Report and Chief Inspector of Schools Amanda Spielman's speech. 

Schools Week has a summary of Ofsted's annual report, citing the pressure many SEND parents feel.

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