Ofsted grading is an enduring matter of debate amongst educational professionals – a way of representing an entire school, its pupils and its workforce’s efforts, in a single word.

For parents, an Ofsted grade can seem completely straightforward – and with that one word a rush for school places ensues.

Yet as any education professional knows, all is never as it seems when it comes to Ofsted. Here, we take a look at the ‘Good’ grade – and explain why it continues to be a sticky issue.

The landscape of today’s ‘Good’ schools

The number of ‘Good’ schools has fallen this year – with fewer making the grade in autumn 2015 as when compared to autumn 2014 (falling from 70% to 64%). This was accompanied, inevitably, with a rise in schools that were identified as requiring improvement (coming in at 31% of schools).

Going on these figures alone, it would seem that 31% of our students are being failed – particularly as most (56%) moved nowhere, either up or down, in their grading.

Let’s take a look at what is deemed to be a ‘Good’ school…

There are five differing areas of Ofsted assessment, with each having many criteria to be check marked if a school is to meet the challenge of achieving a ‘Good’ grade:

  • Overall effectiveness
  • Effectiveness of leadership and management
  • Quality of teaching, learning and assessment
  • Personal development, behaviour and welfare
  • Outcomes for pupils

Here are some key takeaways, along with the definitions of ‘Good’ from various areas…

Overall effectiveness

“Deliberate and effective action is taken to promote pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and their physical well-being”.

Effectiveness of leadership and management

“Leaders and governors use performance management effectively to improve teaching. They use accurate monitoring to identify and spread good practice across the school”.

Quality of teaching, learning and assessment

“Teachers use effective planning to help pupils learn well. Time in lessons is used productively. Pupils focus well on their learning because teachers reinforce expectations for conduct and set clear tasks that challenge pupils”.

Personal development, behaviour and welfare

“Pupils are confident and self-assured. They take pride in their work, their school and their appearance”.

Progression and pupil outcomes

“Across almost all year groups and in a wide range of subjects, including in English and mathematics, current pupils make consistently strong progress, developing secure knowledge, understanding and skills, considering their different starting point”.

Read the full Ofsted Grading guide

When ‘Good’ became ‘Satisfactory’ and ‘Satisfactory’ became ‘Requires Improvement’

Previous to 2012 Ofsted placed schools in to one of four grades: Outstanding (Grade One), Good (Grade Two), Satisfactory (Grade Three) and Inadequate (Grade Four).

Then came a shake-up…

“I make no apology for introducing an inspection framework that raises expectations and focuses on the importance of teaching. The new short-notice inspections allow inspectors to see schools as they really are. Schools judged ‘requires improvement’ will receive strong support from Ofsted to help them get to ‘good’”.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted Chief Inspector

As of 2012, it was announced that Ofsted now expected institutions to meet the ‘Good’ bar of standard as a minimum. This move presented many an issue – not least of which was the fact that previously ‘Satisfactory’ schools would be deemed as in need of improvement.

A further question was also raised – just what is ‘Satisfactory’ actually satisfying, if not representing a school where students achieve minimum expectations? And what about a middle ground, can a school not meet the expectations set of them? It appears not – they’re either good, or bad. This polarised marking scheme would never make sense in a school itself – it would be like having a grading scale that ran from A to E that missed out C. This becomes all the more complex when we consider the next point…

Tomorrow – When ‘Good’ becomes ‘Outstanding’?

We spoke of the ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted grade in a recent blog post, and picked up upon the fact that both the current and future Chief Inspectors of Ofsted were sceptical as to the suitability of having an ‘Outstanding’ grade at all.

However given that the ‘Good’ grade has replaced expectations that schools must previously be ‘Satisfactory’ it’s a relevant question to pose as to whether ‘Good’ will be tomorrow’s ‘Outstanding’?

Just as with many elements of the educational sector in the current age, it appears that the future of Ofsted grades are anything but certain. The one thing that can be predicted, however, is that schools aren’t as yet free from what has been a decade of extraordinary change.