Over the years, Ofsted has consistently claimed that schools working in deprived or challenging areas – their pupils, staff and leaders – are duly recognised for the quality of work they do. Often, using a graph very similar to the one below to justify their comments, they state how inspectors contextualise the inspection process. My view is “leading a school with a large percentage of disadvantaged white boys is statistically a career-ender”. Contextualisation is a myth.
The graph below is a variation on the one often used to explain how inspection is contextualised; after all 80% of schools in the most deprived areas are graded good or outstanding. This graph below uses eligibility for free school meals rather than the geographically based IDACI used previously; the data changes little. Using free school meals allows the graph to be further analysed at a pupil level based on different characteristics including ethnicity.
First analysis that may be of interest is analysis by phase. It shows a stark difference between Ofsted’s judgements in primary and secondary schools.
Whilst 81% of primary schools in the most deprived quintile were most recently judged to be good or outstanding by Ofsted; the figure plummets to 64% for secondary schools. The pattern follows for each quintile apart from the least deprived. Is there comparability between Ofsted’s judgements in primary and secondary schools? If yes, why the huge difference? It may be the cumulative effect of poverty over time; if so, it seems an odd reason to downgrade and school and damn it through an Ofsted inspection.
Cut the primary school data again for ethnicity and another interesting pattern appears. The comparison is based on schools with a high percentage of white British pupils compared to schools with a high level of other ethnic groups. For the least deprived quintile the Ofsted grades for schools at their most recent inspection shows a 6% difference in those graded good or outstanding. However, for other quintiles, based on deprivation, the pattern is really quite mixed.
Going back to secondary schools and the story is totally different. Already we’ve seen above Ofsted’s considerably harsher grading for secondary schools in the more deprived areas. Separate this out by ethnicity and the outcomes are cataclysmic for those schools in a deprived area with a high percentage of white British students.
For secondary schools with a high percentage of other ethnic pupils (i.e. not white British) there are different percentages of Ofsted gradings for each deprivation quintile but nothing too earth shattering.
Compare that to secondary schools serving the most deprived quintile with a high proportion of white British; you’re statistically stuffed. Nearly half these schools will be graded inadequate or requires improvement compared to just six percent of schools from the least deprived quintile based on free school meals. The difference in outstanding grades awarded is outrageous; 4% in the most deprived quintile compared to 58% in the least deprived.
Wherever you work in a school these days I salute you; it’s walking the hard miles currently. To those working in the most deprived areas I salute you and take my hat off to you; you deserve so much better than this; recognition rather than shaming and losing your job. Ofsted don’t contextualise schools and this data exposes the myth. Your intake dictates your Ofsted outcome which is inextricably linked to you Progress 8 score.
Both ASCL and NAHT have accountability reviews underway. Please be bold and call to an end of the current Ofsted organisation rather than just another new framework that will continue to undermine the schools serving our most deprived communities particularly those with a high percentage of white British students. There are other better ways to improve schools, all of them; unreliable, invalid inspection processes need to go. I’d argue Ofsted are damaging schools who are already most fragile; serving the most disadvantaged communities.
With thanks to Ofsted for providing the graphs used in this blog.