YOU may have heard of a school near you having undergone an Ofsted inspection, but who or what is Ofsted, what do they do, and why are they so important when it comes to selecting a school for your child?

We answer all those questions and explain how to understand the league table system and an Ofsted report so that you can make an informed decision about your child’s education.

Ofsted, which stands for the Office for Standards in Education, is responsible for inspecting and regulating services that care for children and young people, and services providing education and skills for learners of all ages.

Ofsted covers eight English regions:

  • East Midlands
  • East of England
  • North East, Yorkshire and Humberside
  • North West
  • South East
  • South West
  • West Midlands
  • London

Each week Ofsted carries out hundreds of inspections and regulatory visits throughout England and publishes the results online.

It helps providers that are not yet of good standard to improve, monitor their progress and share with them the best practice they find.

Their goal is to achieve excellence in education and skills for learners of all ages, and in the care of children and young people.

Ofsted reports directly to parliament and is independent and impartial.

Ofsted is responsible for:

  • Inspecting maintained schools and academies, some independent schools, and many other educational institutions and programmes outside of higher education
  • Inspecting childcare, adoption and fostering agencies and initial teacher training
  • Publishing reports of our findings so they can be used to improve the overall quality of education and training
  • Regulating a range of early years and children’s social care services, making sure they’re suitable for children and potentially vulnerable young people
  • Reporting to policymakers on the effectiveness of these services.

Understanding league tables and Ofsted reports

What do league tables show?

League tables show test and exam results for all schools. They’re published annually by the government’s Department for Education (DfE).

League tables list:

  • Key Stage 2 test results for all state primary schools
  • GCSE results for all state and independent schools
  • AS and A level results for all schools and sixth form colleges

What are contextual value added (CVA) scores?

CVA scores show how much progress students have made from the start of a Key Stage to the end. They take into account issues beyond the school gates known to influence results - such as the economic background of pupils - to give a fair guide to a school’s performance.

For primary schools, the CVA scores use 100 as a bench mark. Scores above 100 represent schools where pupils made more progress than similar pupils nationally. Scores below 100 represent schools where pupils made less progress. For secondary schools, the CVA scores use 1000 as the bench mark instead of 100.

Understanding Ofsted reports

Other resources to look at include the school’s website, and Ofsted reports which, like league tables, can also be found online. Ofsted reports can be valuable when deciding which schools to apply to.

The report makes judgements on:

  • Achievements and standards
  • Pupils' development and wellbeing
  • The quality of teaching and learning
  • How the curriculum is taught
  • The care, guidance and support the school provides
  • How well the school is led and managed

Judgements are scored on a four-point scale:

  • One - outstanding
  • Two - good
  • Three - requires improvement
  • Four - inadequate

The report also makes suggestions for improvement, and the school is expected to put the suggestions into practice.