Another couple of things have come to mind since I posted yesterday. The overall hit rate of around 62 % seemed a little low, so I got to thinking about my incorrect estimates. I hit 20 % of schools in total with a lower estimate than the actual Ofsted judgement. These judgements have potentially massive impacts on schools, staff and communities, so scoring 20 % of schools under is no small thing. There are a several factors though worth considering:
1) I was making a judgement based on up-to-date figures whereas the Ofsted data may be years old. Of course this would work both ways, so a school could have made improvements since the last Ofsted and be deserving of a higher grade. Given that schools scoring 3 and 4 are checked more regularly you might suspect this to happen less often since judgements on these schools will be more recent.
2) I had no idea of contextual factors. Can you imagine any school in the country that isn’t doing what it thinks is best for its pupils? Or a school that doesn’t promote values and culture outside the narrow bands of exams? Every school is doing these things, though presumably some are better at it than others (your experience of ‘better’ may differ). The point being, much as we may like judgements to look at all of the other things we do in school and take that into account all schools will have their own narratives. Any judgement of them is going to be subjective with all of the issues for turning that come from turning that into an objective score. If you take all of the Ofsted inspectors combined than there will be a harshest and a most lenient inspector out there somewhere making these judgements – it’s nothing to do with capability but a feature of making judgements. Given that the style of Ofsted inspections has recently sidelined the whole lesson observation strand because of unavoidable variability, is it unreasonable to suggest there is a problem with overall grading? Granted, several views from a team are used in making the final judgement which may remove more extreme individual judgements. It’s not feasible in the current set-up to have more inspecting the inspectors.
3) The idea of making a snap judgement on a school seems unappealing. The complaint that you can’t make judgements on lessons in a half hour block is often used as an argument. But if you do spend time observing other people’s lessons you can pretty quickly get a sense of things, even with a couple of minutes. It’s not so easy to make a finely graded judgement (nor should we be doing that) but you can see if things are or aren’t working sooner than you might expect. I wonder how soon Ofsted inspectors are really making their judgements. I know the checks and balances are in place but as experienced professionals I would think they could make judgements within a couple of hours.
4) Some judgements are based on very specific issues (safeguarding breeches for example) that could be responsible for lower scores. I won’t dwell on the seemingly obvious solution for Ofsted to simply give schools a chance to fix these things, check it has been done and then publish the results. Sp they could, uh, you know, improve schools.
5) I was fairly equal in underscoring when guessing a 3 when the school got a 2, or a 3 when Ofsted had rated a 4. In other words, maybe the inspectors are being kinder than we may expect when judging schools as good or outstanding. I assume most of them are only too aware of the difficulties that judgements of 3 or 4 can bring. Schools seem to be getting better, at least by Ofsted judgement.
Finally here are the results fro those of you playing along at home from the last post. How did you get on?