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Schools get better reports under new Ofsted grading
NEARLY half of Oxfordshire schools inspected last year improved, despite concerns over a controversial new grading system.
Ofsted changed the categories by which it judges schools’ performance last September. Teachers and parents feared it would have a negative effect on schools’ morale.
But Ofsted inspection results at 101 county schools until July 11 showed just 15 were downgraded, while 41 received higher judgements than at their previous inspections.
The remaining 45 stayed the same.
The new criteria re-moved the term ‘satisfactory’ and replaced it with ‘requires improvement’.
Changes also meant schools could only be given the top ‘outstanding’rating if their teaching was also judged outstanding, which elsewhere saw a number of previously outstanding schools given lower ratings.
Concerns about changes to the framework unfairly branding improving schools as still requiring improvement do not appear to be borne out.
Carterton Community College was a winner under the new rules, moving from satisfactory to good.
Headteacher Niall McWilliams said he felt the inspection was fair and accurate. He added: “Looking at the results, with the exception of the odd anomaly, it seems to be rigorous, but fair.”
The biggest jump was seen at St Andrew’s Primary School, Chinnor, which moved from satisfactory to outstanding.
Headteacher Wendy Heritage put the school’s improvements down to a whole school focus on improvement – with local authority support.
She said: “We worked incredibly hard over the last three years to drive improvement forwards and we received support from a county adviser who has been extremely helpful.”
Two judgements which had raised eyebrows were the change of previously good St Ebbe’s Primary School, in Whitehouse Road, South Oxford, to requires improvement, and of Bicester’s The Cooper School from outstanding to good.
Michael Waine, a governor at The Cooper School and a former headteacher for 27 years, described Ofsted as ‘a blunt tool’ and said he had concerns the inspectorate’s focus on leadership could dissuade potentially excellent leaders from taking the step up to headship.
He said: “There are plenty of quality people out there who are not willing to take the high level of risk of moving into a school, particularly some of our more challenging schools, when they know the person who is going to get the chop will be the headteacher.”
Melinda Tilley, Oxfordshire County Council cabinet member for children, schools and families, supported the Ofsted changes and agreed some schools had benefited.
She said: “Our overall feeling when they were coming in was that it was not bad.
“We thought the new regime was actually grading Oxfordshire schools reasonably well.”
HOW IT CHANGED
Inadequate: notice to improve
Inadequate: special measures
- New framework:
Inadequate: special measures
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