- The government is placing greater importance on the need for schools to take account of the views of their key stakeholder groups, especially parents.
- Ofsted sees Parent View as being a more robust form of self-evaluation as schools become more involved in the canvassing of parents’ views.
- The electronic Parent View is part of Ofsted’s move to no-notice inspections as the paper-based system did not provide them with sufficient data about parents' views.
- Parental feedback should be an ongoing process throughout the year, rather than just before an Ofsted inspection.
- Schools will be able to view comparisons of results from Parent View year by year.
- Outstanding schools are expected to have developed highly successful strategies for engaging with parents to the benefit of pupils, including those who find working with the school difficult.
- In order for a school to achieve an outstanding judgment for behaviour and safety, parents, staff and pupils must be unreservedly positive about both behaviour and safety.
2011/12 was the pilot year for Parent View, the online system introduced by Ofsted for collecting the views of parents about their children’s schools. During this first year more than 24,000 parents took part in this survey and no doubt Ofsted will be hoping for a much greater response in the years to come. The introduction of this initiative by the Coalition Government highlights the importance it places on the need for schools to take greater account of the views of their key stakeholder groups, especially parents. Ofsted sees Parent View as being a more robust form of self-evaluation as schools become more involved in the canvassing of parents’ views.
Previously, Ofsted relied on the now obsolete paper-based questionnaires when seeking the views of parents. Although these provided some useful feedback they were quite often only completed by a small percentage of parents immediately prior to inspection and so were not necessarily representative of all groups of parents. Ofsted is keen to move towards no-notice inspections in the future (rather than the current two days’ notice system), for which the paper-based system would not provide sufficient and adequate data about parents’ views.
What does Ofsted want schools to do?
Ofsted wants schools to encourage as many of their parents and carers as possible to take part in the Parent View survey. It wants to ensure that this is an on-going process that takes place at any time during a given academic year, rather than just at the point of inspection. (If parents wish to update their views during the year, each time they complete the survey their previous responses are automatically deleted.)
Parent View has been designed for use by the parents who have children attending maintained schools and academies and some non-maintained special schools. In addition, since September 2012, parents who have children in independent schools (those that are not members of associations and are therefore inspected by Ofsted) have also been encouraged to become involved. As well as the twelve standard questions that all parents are asked in Parent View, those parents of children at independent schools are asked to respond to five additional questions where boarding or residential provision is available.
Ofsted likes schools to promote the importance of parents completing the Parent View survey. Schools have been encouraged to download logos and links from the Ofsted website to use on their school websites, newsletters and blogs and many now actively promote Parent View in this way. During 2012, some headteachers asked Ofsted to set up a number of guest accounts for use during parents’ evenings and open days. Such initiatives certainly help to encourage those parents who may not have access to the internet at home or are very time-challenged.
Viewing the results
For the year 2011/2012 it was possible to view a school’s results when more than three parents had responded to Parent View. From February 2013 this has been updated to ten responses. At the end of each academic year, the results for that year are ‘frozen’ by Ofsted and a new set of results begins. The purpose of this is to enable comparisons to be made for an individual school between one year and the next. Ofsted has announced that it is planning to publish a summary of results for all schools by the end of each academic year in future.
Guide to inspection for parents and carers
In December 2012 the previous easy-to-read version for parents was withdrawn. The replacement document unsurprisingly places great importance on Parent View. In this document Ofsted has described Parent View as being, ‘the main source of gathering parents’ views about a school’, although it is not the only source. This guide goes on to explain that, ‘If you are a registered parent of a child at the school, the school will send you a letter notifying you of the dates of the inspection. Inspectors will use the views expressed on Parent View when inspecting your child’s school’. This guide does, however, emphasise that Parent View is not a vehicle for reporting complaints concerning individual pupils or settling disputes between parents and the school.
Parents’ views and schools
Schools are required to monitor and evaluate the satisfaction of pupils and their parents. Outstanding schools are expected to have developed ‘highly successful strategies for engaging with parents to the benefit of pupils, including those who find working with the school difficult’.
In order for a school to achieve an outstanding judgment for behaviour and safety, parents, staff and pupils must be unreservedly positive about both behaviour and safety.
Recent inspection reports and Parent View
Recent Ofsted inspection reports published in 2013 have begun to include specific statements about Parent View. For example, where a school was judged to be good overall, Ofsted stated that, ‘The good behaviour of pupils was backed up by what parents had indicated on Parent View’ and ‘the headteacher and other leaders in the school have worked hard to create positive relationships with parents, carers, local schools/colleges and external agencies. This is reflected in the very positive staff questionnaires and responses on Parent View.’
What are the likely long-term impacts for schools?
As Parent View becomes more established, schools will need to consider how they analyse and act upon the findings. Ideally, where parents have identified areas of weakness (e.g. poor discipline, bullying, or unhappiness of their children), the actions taken by the school will be able to feed into the its subsequent improvement plans.
As it becomes possible, in the future, to compare the views of parents from one year to the next, schools will be able to establish whether parents perceive any improvements over a period of time.
Initially, some school leaders were apprehensive when Parent View was introduced, fearing that a small number of negative responses might impact negatively on the school. However, it is important to recognise that inspectors do not make judgements based solely on these surveys, but weigh up the views of the parents alongside the first-hand evidence they have gathered during an inspection visit. So, a small number of negative responses does not necessarily result in a school being adversely affected in the grading system. What seems to be of greater concern to inspectors is when only a very small number of parents have bothered to input their responses online or where the majority of parents have only participated in Parent View immediately prior to the date of inspection.
Use the following item in the Toolkit to help you to put the ideas in this article into practice:
About the author
Jenny Townsend is a freelance education adviser to schools across the UK, supporting various aspects of school improvement. She has experience of supporting schools in the areas of continuing professional development, community engagement, inclusion, adult and family learning and parental engagement.
This article was first published in the May 2013 issue of School Inspection + Improvement Magazine.