By law, primary and secondary schools receiving an ‘outstanding’ grade from Ofsted become exempt from further routine inspections. This absence of regular inspection can seriously cloud parents and management’s confidence that their schools meet the outstanding grade. This can have a seriously damaging effect, particularly on parents, when it comes to picking the best school for their child.
Areas with schools that meet the ‘outstanding’ grade are subject to higher average house prices, something dubbed the ‘Ofsted effect’. On average, house prices in areas where there is an ‘outstanding’ school are £38,600 more than postcodes with a ‘good’ graded school. School gradings contribute significantly more to postcode areas that have schools with ‘inadequate’ grades. Average house prices in these ‘inadequate’ areas are £100,000 cheaper than the corresponding ‘outstanding’ areas. This can of course cause a headache for many parents when it comes to the trade-offs of where to set up shop. Do they prioritise ‘outstanding’ school districts and settle for shoebox living? Or do they favour the larger, more comfortable family home and settle for those ‘inadequate’ schools?
Of course, these extremes are under the assumption that the parents are in the position to decide between paying more for their home and the quality of school their child attends. What happens to those who cannot pick and choose how much they pay for their home? Those that can only afford to live in the areas with ‘inadequate’ schools, who can only dream of those ‘outstanding’ school districts. A dangerous cycle ensues. Ceilings are put in place for children who are subject to below standard teaching from the primary school age. Educational growth cramped and character development hindered because they are forced to attend ‘inadequate’ schools based on their parent’s financial situation. Schools which are characterised by below standard teaching, a careless factory designed curriculum there to pump out exam minded students, with little attention paid to character development, students interests and their ability to function as an active member of society.
This stems from Ofsted’s inspection framework that subjects schools to definition by a single adjective. Resulting in these unnecessary potential outcomes as a result of the government’s inability to understand the fragile temperament of the school environment. Schools should be subject to consistent and rigorous inspection regardless of their prior attainments. By giving these once outstanding schools a gold standard or free pass, school management could quite easily take their foot off the gas and standards start to slip. A backwards step for our educational system as our top schools become lackadaisical in their approach, lowering standards and causing parents to become disillusioned with their child’s progress.
Furthermore, an even greater problem emerges as parents are dumbfounded to find that their decision to favour the ‘outstanding’ school districts, in favour of that more comfortable family home, has in fact actually left them with less than they bargained for.
Ofsted inspections provide assurance to the public and government that minimum standards of education, skills and childcare are being met. In the absence of these inspections, how can any assurance be provided? Some schools under this exemption rule have not been inspected for almost a decade. This exemption rule needs to be looked at seriously and radically reformed to give parents, students and teachers the clarity and assurance about how our schools are actually performing.