Ofsted confirms no changes will be made to inspection grades

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Ofsted says it will retain its four-point grading system of early years settings and schools despite criticisms from the sector.

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Ofsted will keep its current system of grades for inspections going forward

In a new report, the inspectorate explains the reason behind keeping its current grading system and the evidence behind it.

It has been published ahead of the implementation of the new Education Inspection Framework (EIF) in September.

The report says that a range of arguments have been put forward for changing the current grading of early years settings, including:

  • The current grading system leads to enormous amount of pressure on schools and headteachers, which can have negative consequences on provider’s behaviours, and the health and well-being of staff.
  • It can be challenging to provide grades for very large and complex further education and skills (FES) providers that are spread across a range of settings or regions.
  • The exemption of routine inspection for outstanding schools, which means some have not been inspected for more than a decade and/or under a different inspection framework.

Some commentators recommended moving to a below/above the line system. Some suggested scrapping the use of grades altogether, says Ofsted.

The inspectorate goes on to state that it does not ‘pretend that these objections do not exist or that they are not to some extent valid. However, on balance, the arguments for change do not yet counterbalance the arguments for keeping the current system.'

It adds, ‘Our intention is that the new education inspection framework will counteract at least some of the issues, but we will evaluate and assess this as the framework is enacted from September.’

According to Ofsted, the current grading system is useful for parents and policy-makers. It says that grades provide parents with a ‘useful headline indicator of provider quality’, which is different from, but complements performance data.

It also says that parents and teachers trust the system and it useful for Ofsted to test its own quality of inspection.

Another point it raises is that the current system works as a trigger for intervention in schools when they are judged as ‘inadequate’.

New findings from a survey, carried out by YouGov, on behalf of the inspectorate, reveal that nine out of ten parents know the Ofsted rating of their child’s school or provider.

The survey of 1,111 parents, also found that six in ten feel Ofsted is a ‘force’ for improvement and a trusted judge of standards.

Her Majesty’s chief inspector, Amanda Spielman, said, ‘Choosing the right childcare provider, school or college for your child is one of the most important decisions a parent will make. Parents use our reports to help them make that choice and to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of their child’s school. The grades are a reliable measure of quality. They are simple, they are well understood and they work for parents.’

The report, Retaining Ofsted's current grading system in education, is available here

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