Maintaining Standards in School

How the office for standards in Education (OFSTED) works?

The office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) is a government agency, headed by Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools. It inspects and reports on English local education authorities (LEAs) and LEA-maintained schools, sixth form colleges and other education for 16-19 year olds, as well as teacher-training institutions and early year child care, including child minders. It also inspects independent schools when they apply for registration or there is concern about standards. The equivalent body in Wales is Estyn, the office of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate for education and Training in Wales.

OFSTED Inspections

OFSTED is responsible for inspecting state schools every six years. Schools thought to be doing well may have only a short inspection; others need a full inspection of all national curriculum subjects and other aspects of the school’s life.  The inspection teams report on the quality of the work produced by the schools, the educational standards achieved whether financial resources made available to the school are well managed and the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils at the school. 

Before an inspection

Before an inspection the school has to arrange a meeting between the inspector and the parents of the children at the school so that the inspectors can hear the parents’ views. School governors and staff, including the head, cannot attend the meeting unless they have a child at the school. Parents may also be sent a questionnaire and the result of this will be included in the inspectors’ report.

After an inspection

The inspector meets the governors to discuss their findings after the inspection is over. Within six weeks, the inspectors must send a written report and summary to the governing body, the LEA and OFSTED. Copies of the summary must be sent to parents. The full report along with the summary must be made available to anyone who asks for a copy.  

What the governors must do

After receiving the report, the governors have forty working days to prepare a plan showing how they will respond to the aspects of the report’s findings that need action. They must send copies of their action plan to OFSTED, the LEA, members of the school staff and all parents. 

Schools with problems

In some schools, standards cause concern. The inspectors will place them in one of the three groups: those requiring special measures (which could lead to the school being closed down), schools with serious weaknesses (which are given a year to improve) and underachieving schools. The governors of such schools have to make detailed proposals about how they will improve them. They must be given extra support by their LEA and be closely monitored by the LEA and by OFSTED inspectors.

What parents can do     

If you, as a parent, are concerned about the inspection and its results, read a copy of the full report. The crucial section is the list of recommendations. To help you to understand these, ask the school for a copy of the OFSTED framework document and handbook, which contain guidelines on how inspectors monitor school quality. Check the governors’ action plan, which should have been sent to you. If you are still worried about what is in the report and the plan, ask the governors to hold a meeting for parents so that you can express your concerns. Read the governors’ annual report to parents, in which they must report on the progress of the action plan. If progress is too slow, ask the governors to hold a meeting for parents so that you can state your worries and ask questions.