Have Ofsted Inspections Raised Standards in Schools? Evidence is Lacking

Government and Ofsted frequently assert that inspection has raised standards in schools. But there is no unambiguous evidence that this is true.

Scores in key stage tests and in GCSE results have risen over the years, but there is no proven link between the increases and Ofsted inspections. Moreover the earlier improvement in primary school results has more or less ceased as two charts below show.

Figure One shows that at key-stage-one level-two the national scores based on teachers’ own assessments have hardly changed since 2001.

FIGURE ONE Percentage of pupils achieving level 2 or above in the Key Stage 1 teacher assessments, 2000 to 2008 (from DCSF website)

evidence KS1

Figure Two shows that at key-stage-two level-four national scores based on externally marked tests remain more or less unchanged since 2006. It can be argued that with very high proportions of children reaching the levels ‘expected’ by Government no further advance can be made at these age-related markers and the children who don’t get there need more time to so achieve. Pressure from Ofsted inspections doesn’t seem to have made any recent difference.

FIGURE TWO Percentage of pupils achieving level 4 or above in the Key Stage) 2 tests, 2000 to 2008 (from DCSF website)

evidence, KS2

Third is a challenge from one of the national statistics much beloved by politicians: the percentage of 15-year-olds achieving five or more GCSE grades of A* to C. The General Certificate of Secondary Education was introduced by Sir Keith Joseph (a Conservative secretary of state) and the first results were for examinations taken in the summer of 1989.

Every year since then the percentage has risen as is shown in Figure Three. (When Government published Higher Standards, Better Schools for All in 2005 the data for 1997-2005 was used in a similar graph – covering the period of New Labour and ignoring the fact that under the Conservatives this trend had a long history!) But for our purposes it is noteworthy that Ofsted inspections started in 1993 and by 2006 all pupils had been in schools that had been Ofsted inspected throughout their entire school careers. It would be churlish to suggest that the slower progress after 1994 was due to Ofsted, but equally it would be unwise for Ofsted to claim responsibility for the year by year progress since clearly it was happening, and faster, before Ofsted existed!

FIGURE THREE (from data on DCSF website)

evidence, GCSE

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