Skip to main content


Ofsted and exams results

OfstedOfsted to ditch exam results as criteria for success. But why wait another year? And can Ofsted make other changes while they’re at it, please?

By Kate Hilpern

Ofsted are, at long last, going to ditch using exam results as a mark of a successful school. School inspectors have finally woken up to the fact that their current obsession with test scores have reduced teachers to the status of ‘data managers,’ which has in turn had a detrimental effect on pupils.

In a broadcast interview this week, Ofsted’s chief inspector, Amanda Spielman, said, ‘For a long time, our inspections have looked hardest at outcomes, placing too much weight on test and exam results when we consider the overall effectiveness of schools.’

The pressure on headteachers and teachers – and consequently on pupils – to get good exam grades at the expense of the rest of the curriculum, not to mention mental health, is hard to exaggerate. To hear Spielman acknowledge this must come as a huge sense of relief to anyone whose lives are touched by schools.

But the changes will not be implemented from September 2019. That’s another whole academic year of hellish pressure, made all the harder by the recognition that’s not to anyone’s benefit.

With study after study showing that a relentless inspection regime and culture of target-setting is damaging teachers’ mental health, why wait? Britain’s teachers are suffering from stress and exhaustion, among other things, and, according to one study by Leeds Beckett University, over half have a diagnosed mental health problem, which can’t fail to have a ripple effect on their pupils.

Meanwhile, Britain’s schoolchildren are suffering from an epidemic of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts, with less than half getting the NHS treatment they need, according to teachers.

We would like to see Ofsted implement the changes sooner, as well as to take this opportunity to look more widely at what else can be done to minimise the negative impact of school inspections. As it is, many teachers describe these inspections as the worst experience of their careers.

Despite recent improvements, ‘not getting under the skin of a school’ and ‘unsupportive’ are some of the complaints we’ve heard. In many cases, schools believe that Ofsted has already made up its mind before visiting and some also suspect political pressure to come up with some judgements that conform to Government views, with allegations that some ‘superheads’ get advance warning of inspections.

We’ve heard further complaints about the inconsistency of inspections and the difficulty in navigating the complaints procedure which deters challenges when it is felt that mistakes have been made. Some schools also point out that schools with outstanding grades have often not been visited by Ofsted for over a decade. Then there are those who argue that a one or two day visit is nowhere near to make an accurate judgement of a school and that, likewise, a 20-30 minutes’ observation isn’t long enough to make an accurate judgement of a teacher.

There are regular tweaks to the Ofsted framework. And while that’s as it should be, this can leave schools confused about what’s being asked of them. Under a new, improved system, Ofsted would be crystal clear and transparent about what it’s looking for. And in addition, Ofsted would have a stronger relationship with schools – not only working with them when it comes to inspections.

But the biggest sea change of all that’s needed is for schools not be reduced to Ofsted inspections, which should only be part of the picture. As one headteacher we recently interviewed said, ‘We want to be more than good, more than outstanding, more than an Ofsted report, more than a school.’..



No comments received for Ofsted and exam results

Please login to post a comment.

Most popular Good Schools Guide articles

  • Moving the desks won’t make the results better

    Bernadette John, our Director of Special Educational Needs, despairs at yet another pointless idea from The Department of Education. The school admissions system is, apparently, now taking the blame for the lack of social mobility which is blighting opportunities and depriving the nation of much-needed talent.

  • About the number one UK trusted school guide.

    The Good Schools Guide is the UK’s number one school guide, helping parents in every aspect of choosing the best education for their children. Trusted by parents for over 30 years, the guide includes unbiased and candid school reviews and in-depth articles on education-related issues. It is available in print, online to subscribers or through GSG’s expert consultants. Uniquely, each school is selected on merit alone. No one can buy their way into the GSG’s good books. And from famous names to local treasures, their writers visit every single school, interview the head, speak to pupils and parents, analyse academic…

  • For 'Grammar Schools' read 'Fee-Paying Schools'

    One criticism of grammar schools is that they take a disproportionate number of children from privileged backgrounds. A far smaller number of grammar school pupils receive the pupil premium than pupils in comprehensive schools.

  • Sad stories of wasted opportunities for children in need

    Buttle UK is a charity which supports disadvantaged children. One of its more imaginative and bolder initiatives has been to fund places at boarding schools for children who are thought likely to benefit from the opportunities this would provide. The project has been sensitively designed so as not to create divisions between children and their own families and social milieu.

  • Time and places

    The initial furore over National Offer Day is over - although, of course, the next one - Primary School Offer Day - is only six weeks away and we'll have to go through the whole miserable experience again. We, at The Good Schools Guide, along with everyone else, get worked up on behalf of children who are not allocated their first choice school or, far more worrying, children who get offered none of their six choices. It isn't good enough and shouldn't be happening.

Subscribe for instant access to in-depth reviews:

30,000 Independent, state and special schools in our parent-friendly interactive directory
 Instant access to in-depth UK school reviews
 Honest, opinionated and fearless independent reviews of over 1,000 schools
 Independent tutor company reviews

Try before you buy - The Charter School Southwark

The Good Schools Guide subscription

GSG Blog >

The Good Schools Guide newsletter

The Good Schools Guide Newsletter

Educational insight in your inbox. Sign up for our popular newsletters.

The Good Schools Guide manifesto for parents