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Ofsted school inspections: What do they mean?

what parents can do to support their children's learning

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My children’s school recently went into panic mode. Why? Because they had just received the notification that Ofsted were on their way for their latest inspection. The news is enough to send any school into overdrive because the outcome of such reports is so important to parents when choosing a school for their child – after all who is going to choose a school for their loved little ones it is poorly graded by the Ofsted inspectors. Thankfully for my children’s school it was another ‘good’.

What is Ofsted?

Ofsted is dedicated to raising standards in school and its school inspections, which happen every three or four years usually, are designed to help promote improvement and ensure schools are living up to the standards they should be delivering by assessing the quality of the school, staff and the environment and also whether its pupils are achieving all that they can. Their results are summarised in an independent report which can be read by parents and prospective parents alike.


Although schools will know roughly when they are due an inspection they usually only get a few days warning that Ofsted inspectors are on their way. Before the inspection Ofsted gather information on the school, as well as collating parent views through an online or paper parent feedback system called Parent View. Here parents and carers can share their views on the school all year round. The questionnaire is the main way that parents can communicate with the inspectors during the time of a school inspection though of course parents are also free to speak to such inspectors if they feel they must during the inspection too.

Parents questionnaireOfsted

The Parent View questionnaire asks for a parent’s view on a dozen areas of the school and how it is run to help to give Ofsted a view on the school from those that it is accountable to – the parents. The questions can range from parent’s views on the quality of teaching to how the school deals with bullying or poor behaviour. The information provided in these reports throughout the year also helps Ofsted decide which schools to inspect and when.

The inspections follow a general framework depending on the type of school, to ensure that comparisons can be made between schools and that inspections are consistent no matter who has carried them out.

Where can I see the reports?

The reports are available through schools or through Ofsted’s website and are published within a few days of an inspection being made so how do you understand such a report and what should you look out for?

In essence the reports are simple to understand because the overall grade will tell you in an instant how good the inspectors have classed the school to be. Grade 1 is outstanding, grade 2 – good, grade 3 – requires improvement and Grade 4 is classed as inadequate. Should a school fall into one of the last two grades it can mean that the school requires special measures and mean more frequent monitoring inspections which will help the school work towards improving its performance. These inspections will also lead to reports but these are a shorter analysis on how the school is improving or progressing.

All in the detail

Within the detail of the standard Ofsted report is how the school complies with rules and regulations, how it deals with problems or complaints and includes, from the parent view feedback, what parents and carers think about the school. Most importantly of course it also analyses how well pupils are doing – both in terms of their education and their well-being and personal development. The report also includes suggestions from inspectors on how the school could be improved.



About Liz Morrell

About Liz Morrell

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