Every week, Ofsted carries out hundreds of inspections and regulatory visits of services providing education and skills for learners of all ages.
For many years, it has used statistical models to ensure proportionate inspection of maintained schools and academies as well as independent educational institutions and programmes.
But in March 2018, Ofsted released a publication outlining the risk assessment process for good and outstanding maintained schools and academies, which involved individual assessment of published data alongside a more in-depth ‘desk-based’ review of a wider range of available information.
In light of this, TeacherToolkit Founder and CEO Ross Morrison McGill made a Freedom of Information request asking for the sources of data Ofsted uses to calculate/predict which schools to inspect next.
Freedom of Information request details
In his FOI request, Ross Morrison McGill referenced the risk assessment process for the two stages and asked Ofsted:
“For schools and academies, I would like to know 1) what school data (published or not) do you consider for assessment? 2) What ‘desk-based’ information do you assess to evaluate which schools to visit?”
Ofsted’s FOI request response
“In this case, the process of how schools are selected for inspection is set out in our published guidance documents. Paragraph 11 of the school inspection handbook sets out the risk assessment process and provides further details of the information considered in paragraph 13. We also publish a methodology note which provides further in-depth detail of the risk assessment process concerning good and outstanding schools. In all cases, the data used as part of the risk assessment process is publicly available.
As we set out in our guidance documents we use:
- progress and attainment data from DfE,
- school workforce census data,
- and Parent View responses.”
Not enough data for reliability and credibility
Ofsted says that it uses a broad range of indicators to select providers for inspections. However, it actually only cites three sources – parent views, examination data including attendance, and workforce headcount – all of which are questionable when determining how good a school is.
For example, Ofsted surveys 1,500 parents to justify publishing reports to the public. But, several teachers don’t believe this is reliable research data and question Ofsted’s view that ‘grading schools is what parents want’.
Also, when you consider the National Audit Office’s report on sample size, Ofsted aren’t surveying enough people to make any credible judgement.
NAO says that when reporting the results of a sample it is important to cover several key facts:
- the sample size;
- the sample selection methodology;
- the estimates resulting from the sample, and
- the precision and confidence intervals for the estimates.
Ofsted is currently consulting on a new framework, under which several schools will never be inspected. However, you can express your views on its proposals for changes to the education inspection framework until 5th April.
Ofsted says that feedback will help refine and improve its proposed approach. It will consider all responses carefully before finalising and publishing the framework in summer 2019.