Towards the end of last year the National Audit Office invited PTA UK to share its thoughts on Ofsted's inspection of schools to inform their value for money study. Owing to the tight timescales involved, we invited parents to share their views by completing a survey we promoted online in December.
We have responded to the National Audit Office on two specific questions from their study. Our response took into account the findings from our survey alongside the results of three other surveys that we had previously conducted and we have suggested that a more extensive study of parents views' into Ofsted would be helpful.
Is Ofsted meeting the needs of the users of its school inspection reports?
Of the 295 parents who responded to an online survey we conducted in December 2017 to inform this response:
- 54.8% of parents said they looked at Ofsted reports when choosing a school, whilst over a quarter of respondents (28.6%) said they hadn’t
- 65% of respondents said they found it easy to understand Ofsted’s written reports, whilst over one in 10 (16.3%) did not find the reports easy to understand
- Only a quarter of respondents (24.2%) said the report was important to them when choosing a school place for their child
- Significantly, eight out of 10 (80.95%) of all the parents surveyed did not think the Ofsted report was as important as location and local reputation of the school.
These results tell us that although a large number of parents are aware of the Ofsted reports and may refer to them, the vast majority of parents use additional indicators of location and local reputation as a deciding factor when applying for a school place.
Feedback from individual parents indicated that the reports are useful to some as a starting point for looking at schools but opinions and experiences of other parents and students, as well as academic results, are also key indicators for choosing a school. Respondents expressed some wariness regarding the reliability of the inspection results, as they were only a ‘snapshot’ in time.
Although 89% of parents questioned in our 2015 survey (of 1300 parents) said they valued an independent body such as Ofsted inspecting schools, only six in 10 parents (61%) were prepared to trust Ofsted judgements. Both in the 2015 (83%) survey and in the 2017 (82%) survey, parents overwhelmingly agreed Ofsted acts in the interest of government, as opposed to school leadership, parents or the child.
Do you consider that Ofsted’s inspection of schools has a positive effect?
Overall parents are not sure if they are seeing positive outcomes from Ofsted inspections.
Of the 295 parents surveyed online in December 2017, only one in 10 (13.6%) of parents agreed that the inspection led to an improvement of their child’s school, with over half of all parents (56.1%) disagreeing and around a third (30.3 %) being unsure or saying they don’t know.
It appears that parents’ experiences of Ofsted inspections are very mixed. Of those 295 parents surveyed in December 2017, over half (56%) reported having a negative experience of the process (17% reported having a good experience and 27 % were undecided or didn’t know). Half of the 295 parents surveyed in December did not think that Ofsted acted on parent input as part of their evaluation. This suggests that Ofsted needs to do more to engage parents in the school evaluation process and to reflect parent-school relations in its reports.
Parents are both a child’s first educator and the principal stakeholder in their child’s school, so we would suggest more needs to be done by Ofsted to engage with parents and encourage schools to do the same.
Towards this and achieving increased value for money in the school inspection service, we hope the National Audit Office will encourage Ofsted to use PTA UK’s guidance (produced in partnership with the Association of Schools and College Leaders and the National Association of Head Teachers) on Effective Home School partnerships and its four key elements as a starting point for framing positive engagement with parents in school:
- A Whole School approach with strong leadership
- Effective two-way communication
- Support for Home-School learning
- Parental Participation in School Life
Would you like your views to inform our future research projects? Register your interest here