Wednesday, March 2nd

I had an interesting chat yesterday with the Ofsted press office. A press officer called me after I wrote an article for the Financial Times*, which was published on Saturday, on the effects of results pressures in schools.

This included the following paragraph:

“Ofsted inspections have, in recent years, focused heavily on statistical indicators of school quality that are largely based on exam performance.”

Ofsted’s argument was that inspections aren’t now as dependent on test/exam data as is commonly perceived. Particularly since the introduction of the latest version of the Ofsted framework, in September 2009, more emphasis is being placed on lesson observation, it was stressed to me. It is also not the case, as is sometimes thought, that schools are being pre-judged, before inspection visits, on the basis of their results.

I have been promised more information on this from Ofsted, and will update this blog on this subject when I receive it. In the meantime, anyone with thoughts or experiences on the current inspection process is welcome, as ever, to leave a comment or get in touch with me at

By the way, I wrote the FT article for a supplement which included league tables of school results. Another article in the supplement included some comments from a university admissions tutor on familiar themes, to readers of Education by Numbers and this website.

The piece, by Liz Lightfoot, included a quotation from Richard Austen-Baker, a law admissions tutor at the University of Lancaster. He said: “The exam boards compete for customers – teachers and students – and what they want are the best possible grades, especially with the pressure from school league tables.”

Dr Austen Baker added, of exam preparation in schools: “I have been told by teachers that they discourage students from wider reading because there is a danger it might introduce them to material which is not in the syllabus and if they use that in their exams instead of material from the exam specification, they will lose marks.”

Anecdotal stuff, of course, from one individual, but I thought I’d mention it as this website is supposed to be documenting views alongside research evidence of the effects of the current system.

 *I think you’ll need to register with the FT site to read this piece, and the one by Liz Lightfoot.