Judgement not a status.

These is the final words from the DfE about Ofsted inspections. They are taken from a statistical release on the judgement of Ofsted about ‘free schools’ released today and follow on from the DfE announcing earlier in the summer that the proportion of free schools rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted was higher than in other state-funded schools inspected. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/357764/Free_schools_-_Ofsted_grades_v3.pdf

The DfE now states that:

there are the differences in the sizes of groups when comparing free schools to all schools. At the time of the press release, Ofsted had inspected and published reports for 62 free schools, but overall around 20,000 schools are subject to Ofsted inspection. These different group sizes should be taken into account when making comparisons. Additionally, given the small number of free schools inspected to date, the percentage of free schools rated outstanding may be subject to some volatility. Just a few additional inspection grades could have a substantial impact either way on the proportion rated outstanding.

Finally, only a minority of open free schools has been inspected to date. At the time of the press statement, 36% of all open free schools had been inspected. Added to this, only free schools which opened in 2011 and 2012 have been subject to inspection so far. Caution should therefore be taken when drawing conclusions about the performance of all open free schools and when comparing free schools to other schools. However Ofsted inspection grades provide a valuable source of information, in the absence of attainment data, to begin to judge the performance of free schools.”

I was interested to read this as I am having issues with the DfE’s announcement over the readiness of schools to cope with the introduction of Universal Infant Free School Meals. In August, the DfE surveyed local authorities about community and voluntary schools preparedness, but didn’t ask about academies and free schools since local authorities aren’t responsible for them and didn’t have anything to do with the capital allocations. I asked the DfE for the position with the academies and the 3 free schools in Oxfordshire; silence was followed by an evasive reply. I still don’t know what the answer is. Were they as well prepared, or better prepared than community and voluntary schools? Does the DfE even know? Did the Funding Agency conduct the same survey as was required of local authorities?

The national announcement seems to suggest that they did and if it didn’t include the data from academies and free schools but didn’t make that clear perhaps we can expect another statistical release along the lines of the one about inspection grades.

Returning to that topic, it is interesting to see that three of the four schools that opened in 2011 that were inspected and were rated outstanding were primary schools and only one was a secondary school. But, many free schools started with the primary age-groups as that is where the pressing need for places was and still is. Overall, it would be interesting to see what the list looked like if inspections of studio schools and university technical colleges were added to the numbers to create a list of non-standard schools for mainstream children.

Finally, it is good to know that Ofsted provides a judgement that applied at the point in time when the judgement was made and related to the provision that was on offer at that point in time. As the DfE release concludes, ‘It is a judgement and not a status’.

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