What Do Schools Do after OFSTED School Inspections-or before?

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This article was downloaded by: [Moskow State Univ Bibliote]On: 25 September 2013, At: 16:54Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T3JH, UKSchool Leadership &Management: Formerly SchoolOrganisationPublication details, including instructions forauthors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/cslm20What Do Schools Do afterOFSTED School Inspections-orbefore?Janet Ouston , Brian Fidler & Peter EarleyPublished online: 25 Aug 2010.To cite this article: Janet Ouston , Brian Fidler & Peter Earley (1997)What Do Schools Do after OFSTED School Inspections-or before?, SchoolLeadership & Management: Formerly School Organisation, 17:1, 95-104, DOI:10.1080/13632439770195To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13632439770195PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLETaylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all theinformation (the Content) contained in the publications on our platform.However, Taylor & Francis, our agents, and our licensors make norepresentations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness,or suitability for any purpose of the Content. 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Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found athttp://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionsDownloaded by [Moskow State Univ Bibliote] at 16:54 25 September 2013 School Leadership & Management, Vol. 17, No. 1, pp. 95 104, 1997What Do Schools Do afterOFSTED School Inspections orbefore?JANET OUSTONManagement Development Centre, Institute of Education, Bedford Way, LondonWC1H 0AL, UKBRIAN FIDLERCentre for Education Management, University of Reading, Earley, Reading RG6 1HY,UKPETER EARLEYOxford Centre for Education Management, Oxford Brookes University, Wheatley, OxfordOX33 1HX, UKABSTRACT The results of research on the effects of OFSTED secondary school inspections inEngland since 1994 are presented. The reactions of headteachers to the inspections and theirprogress on the resulting school action plan are given. The results indicate considerable potentialfor school inspections to contribute to the process of school improvement.School Inspections by OFSTEDThe Education Reform Act (1988) moved the focus of accountability of schoolsdecisively towards a market based on parental choice (Kogan, 1988). Judgementsabout schools were to be made by parents on the basis of increasing amounts ofcomparative quantitative data (Fidler, 1989). The professional scrutiny of schools byLocal Education Authority (LEA) inspectors and Her Majesty s Inspectorate (HMI)was reduced, since both were reduced in numbers. Grant maintained schools wereonly open to inspection by HMI.The Education (Schools) Act 1992 instituted a regime of systematic inspectionsof all state schools on a four yearly cycle. Inspections were to be carried outaccording to a framework produced by a newly formed Of ce for Standards inEducation (OFSTED). Inspectors are required to pass a registration assessment andare contracted to carry out inspections after having a tender accepted by OFSTED(Ouston et al., 1996a).Inspections appear to have several functions:1363-2434 /97/010095-10 $7.00 1997 Journals Oxford LtdDownloaded by [Moskow State Univ Bibliote] at 16:54 25 September 2013 96 J. Ouston et al.(1) They increase the amount of information, both factual and judgmental,availab le to parents to inform their choice of school. This can be viewed asan indirect impact of inspection.(2) They provide a summary professional judgement on the performance of aschool. This does not have any direct impact on schools except for thosedeemed `in need of special measures , when a series of actions are triggeredwhich can result in a school closing in the most extreme case.(3) They provide a spur to improvement in two main ways (Matthews & Smith,1995). Schools are given a substantial period of notice before an inspection takesplace. Schools can be expected to undertake developmental and remedialmeasures in this time with the intention of avoiding adverse comment inthe forthcoming inspection. After inspection, schools are required to produce an action plan whichaddresses areas of weakness identi ed in the inspection report. In 1996/7schools will receive additional funding after submitting their action plan(although this is only a targetted form of funding which would previouslyhave gone to all schools for staff development).As originally envisaged, OFSTED inspections appeared to be a quality controlprocess. They were highly standardised and intended to provide comparable infor-mation and judgements about schools. When the Improving School ManagementInitiative group of the British Educational Management and Administration Society(BEMAS) considered the potential of inspections for school improvement in 1992it suggested that an approach based on quality assurance rather than quality controlwould have been more valuable, but the group did recognise a key feature ofinspections they would in uence every state school over a 4 year period.For this reason BEMAS supported an investigation of the developmentalimpact of school inspections. The current results of this research are reported here.A grant from the Nuf eld Foundation will support further research in 1996 and1997.Research on OFSTED InspectionsOFSTED inspection has become part of the life of schools. Secondary schoolinspection started in September 1993 and primary inspection a year later. There hasbeen a considerable interest from researchers in the impact of OFSTED on schools,teachers, inspectors, parents and governors: many of these studies are reported inOuston et al. (1996b). There has been corresponding interest in how inspections andother initiatives can play a part in school development (OFSTED, 1994, 1995a;Earley et al., 1996).Since 1994 we have undertaken four linked postal surveys of the impact ofinspection on the management of secondary schools. The rst survey focused on allEnglish secondary schools inspected in the autumn term 1993 (n 5 284) (Fidleret al., 1994) and the second on those inspected a year later, in the autumn term 1994Downloaded by [Moskow State Univ Bibliote] at 16:54 25 September 2013 What Do Schools Do after OFSTED? 97TABLE I. Survey scheduleFollow-upSurvey Inspected First questionnaire questionnaire1.1 and 1.2 Autumn 1993 June 1994 (1.1) June 1995 (1.2)2.1 and 2.2 Autumn 1994 June 1995 (2.1) June 1996 (2.2)(n 5 399) (Fidler et al., 1994). These surveys were undertaken two terms after theinspection in the summer terms of 1994 and 1995 to ensure that the actionplanning process was completed. The response to each survey was good (around60%) and a similar range of schools responded. The third study followed upthe schools inspected in 1993 two years later (Ouston et al., 1996b) and thefourth survey, undertaken in 1996, followed up those inspected in 1994. (Table Isummarises the survey schedule.) Each follow-up survey asked whether theinspection still played a part in the decision making process. It also asked forinformation about the progress made on implementing the inspectors recommenda-tions. All questionnaires were addressed to the headteacher and nearly all werecompleted by the head or, occasionally, by a deputy. The surveys should, therefore,be seen as a senior management view of the inspection process and its consequences.Schools Inspected in 1993 and 1994In 1994 (survey 1.1) almost a quarter of schools had used an external consultant orinspector to give guidance on the state of the school before inspection, whilst in1995 (survey 2.1) this gure had risen to 38%. The value of preparation for schooldevelopment was reported to be much higher in 1995: 48% rated it highly comparedwith 36% in 1994 and the mean response (on a ve point scale) went up from 2.9to 3.3. A number of heads indicated that they had used the Framework to preparetheir schools for inspection and had obviously found it of value. The mean for thevalue of the verbal feedback for school development was 2.93 (survey 2.1) comparedwith 2.96 (survey 1.1), whilst the value of the nal report fell from 3.16 (survey 2.1)to 3.01 (survey 1.1).In 1995 (survey 2.1) we asked about the accuracy of the report in describing theschool and about the report s judgement of the four main areas of inspection. Mostrespondents (two thirds) said that the report was fair, 12% said that the report wastoo positive and 21% that it was too negative.On a ve point scale we asked about the reaction of the head to the report. Thescale ran from dispirited to encouraged. The greatest number were encouraged(69%), 21% were dispirited in some way and only 10% were neutral. In theoverwhelming number of cases this view was perceived to be shared by the staff(92%).When we asked about the effect of inspection on the speed of development, therange of answers was striking. Four per cent said that development had stopped,24% said that it had slowed, 34% said it had speeded up and the remaining 38%,the largest single group, said that it had been unaffected. Some respondentsDownloaded by [Moskow State Univ Bibliote] at 16:54 25 September 2013 98 J. Ouston et al.explained that the process of preparing for their inspection has prevented develop-ments they wished to make, whilst others pointed out that preparing for inspectionhad led them to make developments earlier than they might otherwise have done.The reaction is both a function of the state of the school and how the schoolperceived the inspection process.In 1994 (survey 1.1), although the action plan was referred to as the governorsaction plan, almost half the respondents thought that the governors played little orno part in its creation. In 1995 (survey 2.1) there was evidence of a little moreinvolvement of governors. Only 39% said the governors had made little or nocontribution and 18% compared with 14% said that governors had made a majorcontribution. Nineteen per cent had used a consultant to help devise the action planand 12% had received a major input from their LEA; in both cases these are smallchanges on 1994. Nineteen per cent expected to use a consultant to help implementtheir action plan.In 1995 (survey 2.1) 55% said that the action points were coincident with theirschool development plan (SDP) (Hargreaves & Hopkins, 1991). The corresponding gure in 1994 (survey 1.1) was 29%. In 1994, 17% said that there were majordifferences between the SDP and the post-OFSTED action plan. In 1995 (survey2.1) this had fallen to 5%, suggesting that the inspection framework is having amajor in uence on the priorities schools set themselves.In the 1995 survey (survey 2.1) schools reported that the inspectors reported anaverage of 6.8 `key issues for action . Not all of these were rated important by theschools. The respondents were asked for their assessment of the numbers of actionpoints they considered to be `important : the mean number was 3.9; 2.9 actionpoints were regarded by schools as less than `important .The Follow-up StudiesThe third survey (survey 1.2) followed up the schools inspected in the autumn term1993 almost 2 years later, in the summer term 1995. Every school in the `1993group was asked if they would be willing to be followed up later. One hundred andseventy schools replied (out of 284) and 120 agreed to be followed up. Of the 120,87 replied to the follow-up. Again, this was a good response (70%), but we must beaware that this is only one third of the total population of schools inspected in theautumn term 1993. Using evidence from respondents at different stages of theselinked studies, schools that replied to the follow-up survey had been, on average,slightly more positive about the value of inspection 1 year earlier. This must be keptin mind when interpreting the follow-up data.The fourth survey (survey 2.2) followed up the schools inspected in the autumnterm 1994. Of these schools, 208 were willing to be followed up and 118 question-naires had been returned by the end of August 1996.Downloaded by [Moskow State Univ Bibliote] at 16:54 25 September 2013 What Do Schools Do after OFSTED? 99TABLE II. Key issues for action (survey 1.2 only)Per cent ofKey issues for action schoolsThe corporate act of worship 65Assessment 37Monitoring and evaluation 30Teaching and learning styles 29School development planning 28Differentiation 28Academic achievement 23ResultsThe follow-up questionnaires were distributed in the summer terms of 1995 and1996. Schools were asked about their OFSTED inspection which had taken placenearly 2 years earlier, in either the autumn term 1993 or 1994. The data from the rst follow-up study will be presented rst, with the second follow up data given inparentheses.In survey 1.2, 32% of schools (35% in survey 2.2) felt that the report was `verypositive about the school , 40% (43%) that it was `generally positive , 24% (19%)that it was `mixed and 3% (3%) that it was `mainly or totally negative .Thirty six per cent of schools (21% in survey 2.2) said that the inspection hada considerable impact on the whole school and a further 39% (36%) that it had amoderate impact. Three quarters (63%) saw the impact of inspection to have beenpositive and one quarter (30%) that it was mixed. Only 1% (3%) saw the impact asnegative. The greatest impact was in the schools who reported a `mixed or`negative report. These data suggest a decline in the impact of inspection and in itspositive outcomes.Forty eight per cent (35%) said that the inspection still played a direct part inthe discussions of the senior management team. This was unrelated to whether theyperceived the report itself to have been positive or negative. The main issuesreported were concerned with planning: the school development plan and theOFSTED action plan. This was followed by issues concerned with academicattainment and teaching and learning styles. (These data are not yet available forsurvey 2.2.)The number of `key issues for action reported in follow-up survey 1.2 rangedfrom three to 10, with average of six. The most frequently mentioned are listed inTable II.Schools were asked to assess how much progress they had made on implement-ing the `key issues for action . Most progress was reported in the following areas:(i) responsibilities of the senior management team;(ii) personal and social education and tutorial programmes;(iii) health and safety;(iv) special educational needs;(v) linking the school development plan to the budget.Downloaded by [Moskow State Univ Bibliote] at 16:54 25 September 2013 100 J. Ouston et al.Least progress was made in:(i) the corporate act of worship and religious education teaching(ii) accommodation(iii) timetabling issues(iv) academic attainment(v) attendance and punctuality(vi) developing pupil independence and initiative .But even in these areas most schools reported that they had made some progress.(These data are not yet availab le for survey 2.2.)A key focus of the research has been how schools resolve the potential clash forpriorities between the inspectors `key issues for action and their own schooldevelopment plan. Fifty six per cent (69% in survey 2.2) reported that they had notbeen diverted from their school development plan. Of these, three quarters (70% insurvey 2.2) said that their own plan and the inspectors recommendations hadoverlapped almost completely, while others worked on the issues that overlappedand left the remainder. In those schools where the inspection did divert them fromtheir SDP, most changed the SDP to incorporate the inspection report. In 34% ofthese schools (3% in survey 2.2) the inspection recommendations took priority overthe schools own existing plans.Finally schools were asked to report any other long-term positive or negativeoutcomes of inspection. The positive outcomes included con rmation that it was `agood school . It also provided additional audit information and helped to sharpenthe school s development programme. Negative outcomes included those resultingfrom:(i) a lack of con dence in the accuracy of inspectors judgements;(ii) the stress and demoralisation inspection may create for staff at all levels;(iii) the negative impact it may have on the community.There was also concern in some schools that the report `only told them what theyknew already . Many schools commented that they would have valued a moredevelopmental approach, which included suggestions about how to implement theinspectors recommendations. (These data are not yet available for survey 2.2.)Changes between the Two CohortsOur rst group of schools (surveys 1.1 and 1.2) were the rst to be inspected underthe OFSTED inspection Framework. The second group (surveys 2.1 and 2.2) wereinspected at least 1 year after the start of OFSTED inspection. One must, of course,be careful about over-interpreting apparent changes between two sets of data theymay be merely random uctuations which will inevitably occur from year to year.Before drawing together the comparisons it is important to note that there is noevidence that schools perceived any change in the overall pro le of judgements madeDownloaded by [Moskow State Univ Bibliote] at 16:54 25 September 2013 What Do Schools Do after OFSTED? 101by inspectors. Similar proportions of schools in each cohort saw their reports aspositive, mixed or negative.If the changes we have recorded are supported by later research evidence, theywould suggest that the impact of inspection is changing from after the inspection tobefore the inspection. There are several sources of evidence to support this con-clusion. First, schools pre-inspection SDPs are now more likely to include theinspectors `key issues for action . They appear to have taken account of theinspection framework in writing their plans. Second, inspection is perceived ashaving slightly less impact on schools than it did in its rst year and also to haveslightly less positive impact. This might be explained by the greater overlap betweenthe SDP and the inspectors key issues for action. Finally, schools are less likely tobe diverted from their existing development plan and less likely to agree that `theaction points took priority over the SDP . But the impact of OFSTED inspection onschools may be just as great, or greater. Its in uence may be more on writing theSDP, rather than on what happens after the inspection. (This is not, of course, thecase for `failing schools where there are many consequences after inspection.)These ndings may re ect two broad issues: rst, schools are increasinglyin uenced by the OFSTED framework in planning their SDP; second, they may bedeveloping a more mature and con dent approach to inspection, coming to termswith the inspection process. The inspection may be becoming considered as onesource of evidence which can be seen as part of an on-going review process ratherthan a very high pro le, special event. This conclusion may be supported by thewriters impression that local newspaper interest in inspection has also declined.Discussion of Research QuestionsWith the foregoing evidence we can review the three research questions with whichthis paper began.Secondary schools were, on the whole, positive about the developmental impactof OFSTED inspections when headteachers were questioned some 6 9 monthslater. The three triggers for development appear to be:(1) preparation for the inspection;(2) information from a systematic evaluation of schools performance highlight-ing issues for development;(3) the requirement to produce an action plan after the inspection.However, any developmental impact appears to be dependent on the followingfactors.(1) The headteacher s (and possibly others ) approach to inspection. Someheads appeared to have negative views of inspection and inspectors beforetheir inspection. Rose (1995) has suggested that schools should take agreater part in setting the agenda for their inspection.(2) The conduct of the inspection. Some comments indicated that attitudes ofDownloaded by [Moskow State Univ Bibliote] at 16:54 25 September 2013 102 J. Ouston et al.TABLE III. Priority action points in surveys 1.2 and 2.2Survey 1.2 Survey 2.21 The School Development Plan (SDP) already incorporatedthe action points 12 The SDP was changed to incorporate the action points 23 Priorities in the school s SDP were ignored in favour ofOFSTED action points 64 The SDP was changed to incorporate action points 35 Only action points within the SDP were progressed 46 OFSTED action points were ignored. 5It should be remembered that some action points concern issues which are not within the directcontrol of a school, e.g. accommodation.inspectors and the way inspections had been conducted had provokedantipathy.(3) The structure and framework of inspection. Inspectors appeared to putmore emphasis on reporting on classroom processes rather than manage-ment of the school. Thus reports were more geared to providing infor-mation about what needed to be improved in classrooms rather thanidentifying and reporting on the managerial processes which were failing toensure quality teaching.The second research question concerns how development was planned. Thealternatives set out in Table III are in decreasing frequency.For the nal research question, a particularly noteworthy nding is that in manyschools development related to inspection was reported to be an active process twoyears later. Not surprisingly, progress on action points had been uneven. Thoseaction points which were relative ly discrete, e.g. senior management team responsi-bilities , were more speedily achieved than others, e.g. attendance, achievement.Many of the action points were on-going and progress was only expected over anumber of years. On only a small number of action points was no progress planned.General DiscussionThe Framework for Inspections was rst published in 1992 and has undergone twominor revisions. A major revision was introduced in the summer term, 1996(OFSTED, 1995b). This pays much greater attention to a school s own develop-ment plan and processes of internal evaluation. This marks an explicit shift from aprocess which was standardised to report on schools for evaluation purposes to aprocess which is more related to each school in ways which are intended to facilitateits development. Action point priorities can be discussed with the headteacher,although it is the registered inspector who nally decides the prioritisation of actionpoints in the inspection report.Whilst it has been decided that there will be a second cycle of inspections, theprecise form this will take has been subject to consultation. The current pattern isto be retained for schools causing concern, whilst a longer period between inspec-Downloaded by [Moskow State Univ Bibliote] at 16:54 25 September 2013 What Do Schools Do after OFSTED? 103tions is to be used for schools with a good report in the rst round and no contraryindications. Some evidence from other organisations suggests that complacency canbecome apparent in a short length of time and so a longer time between inspectionsmight be undesirable.There is abundant evidence, both anecdotally and in research ndings (Brim-blecombe et al., 1996), of the stress and anxiety which inspections engender. Thiswas a factor given by some of our respondents as a negative aspect of inspection.The relationship between performance and stress shows that increasing levels ofstress improve performance until a point is reached at which a further increase instress leads to a rapid deterioration in performance. Thus not all stress is deleterious.Levels of stress of staff may vary with the state of the school being inspected, withthe way an inspection is carried out, with the natural propensities of individualteachers and, nally, with the approach which senior school managers adopt to theinspection process. Senior managers may feel under pressure themselves, but theycan either consciously or unconsciously pass this on to staff or they can seek toreassure staff. These actions may be an important intervening factor as regards thestress which teachers experience.Finally, a very pressing issue is the cost of school inspections. This includesboth any payment to inspection teams and the cost of the time of senior managersand others within schools. However, cost alone is only one part of the equation. Theother part is the value which results from the process. The evidence of develop-mental impact which is reported here demonstrates value. This is not to say that thismay not be achievable at lower cost or higher value obtained from the present cost.The real dif culty concerns a precise assessment of the value of inspections.Although the direct costs of inspection are large and exceed 100,000,000 perannum, such sums need to be compared to the cost of operating schools, which issome 300 times larger. If inspections promote improvement in the outcomesresulting from 100,000,000, the crucial question is whether such improvementcould be achieved in any less expensive way.REFERENCESBRIMBLECOMBE, N., ORMSTON, M. & SHAW , M. (1996) Teachers perceptions of inspection, in:J. OUSTON, P. EARLEY & B. FIDLER (Eds) OFSTED Inspections: the early experience (London,David Fulton).EARLEY, P., FIDLER, B. & OUSTON, J. (Eds) (1996) Improvement through Inspection? Complementa ryapproaches to school development (London, David Fulton).FIDLER, B. (1989) Background to the Education Reform Act, in: B. FIDLER & G. BOWLES (Eds)Effective Local Management of Schools (Harlow, Longman).FIDLER, B., OUSTON, J. & EARLEY, P. (1994) OFSTED inspections and their contribution toschool development, paper presented at the Annua l Conference of the British EducationalResearch Association, Oxford University, September.FIDLER, B., OUSTON, J. & EARLEY, P. (1995) School improvement through school inspection?,paper presented at the European Conference on Educational Research, Bath University, Septem-ber.HARGREAVES, D.H. & HOPKINS, D. (1991) The Empowered School: the management and practice ofdevelopment planning (London, Cassells).Downloaded by [Moskow State Univ Bibliote] at 16:54 25 September 2013 104 J. Ouston et al.KOGAN, M. (1988) Education Accountability: an analytic overview , 2nd edn (London, Hutchinson).MATTHEWS, P. & SMITH, G. (1995) OFSTED: inspecting schools and improvement throughinspection, Cambridge Journa l of Education, 25, pp. 23 34.OFSTED (1994) Improving Schools (London, HMSO).OFSTED (1995a) Planning Improvement: schools post-inspection action plans (London, HMSO).OFSTED (1995b) The OFSTED Framework: framework for the inspections of nursery, primary,secondary and special schools (London, HMSO).OUSTON, J., EARLEY, P. & FIDLER, B. (Eds) (1996a) OFSTED Inspections: the early experience(London, David Fulton).OUSTON, J., EARLEY, P. & FIDLER, B. (1996b) Improvement through inspection? A follow up ofsecondary schools progress on implementing their OFSTED inspection `key issues foraction , paper presented at the BEMAS Research Conference, Cambridge University, March.ROSE, J. (1995) OFSTED inspection who is it for?, Education Review, 9, pp. 63 66.Downloaded by [Moskow State Univ Bibliote] at 16:54 25 September 2013


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