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Free article: Interpreting the inspection dashboard

Published: Tuesday, 19 January 2016

There is a new inspection dashboard to go with Ofsted's new Common inspection framework. Tony Powell explains how it can be used.

Summary

  • The intention of the inspection dashboard is to give inspectors and schools an overview of the data highlights of the most important outcomes for pupils.
  • The main use for data shown in the dashboard is preparing for an inspection.
  • A school's first act should be to identify its own statements from within the list of all the possible strengths and weaknesses statements.
  • Inspectors will be looking for trends over time, differences between subjects and between prior attainment points, and differences between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged pupils.
  • The inspection dashboard is also the starting point for inspecting personal development, behaviour and wellbeing.

The inspection dashboard was created to support the new inspection arrangements, particularly short inspections. The intention is to give inspectors and schools an overview of the data highlights of the most important outcomes for pupils. This will support a dialogue between inspectors and schools, with the school taking the lead in investigating strengths and weaknesses and presenting its interpretations of the data alongside other evidence.

From the structure of the inspection dashboard we know that the most important historic data for Ofsted relates to progress, attainment, absence, exclusions, destinations and context. The most important groups for comparison are boys, girls, SEN and disadvantaged pupils.

There is a package of guidance on the RAISEonline site at http://bit.ly/RAISEonlineLibrary. The 'Inspection Dashboard and PANDA' pack is the first in the list and contains general and technical guidance and anonymised examples. The data manager should scrutinise these, but all senior leaders should understand the technical guidance so they can interpret the charts.

Contextual points

Ofsted carries out risk assessments of all schools. These may trigger an inspection if there is a steep fall or a significant downward trend in results. The most important data for risk assessments is the floor standards.

Short inspections of 'good' schools are based on the presumption that the school remains at least 'good'. There are essentially only two questions:

  • Is this still a 'good' school?
  • Is safeguarding effective?

So if a 'good' school has a short inspection, any weaknesses identified in the inspection dashboard are not serious enough to suggest that the school is less than 'good', although evidence gathered in the inspection may show this.

The data shown in the dashboard is for the past three years. This historic data is very important for identifying trends, but its main use is preparing for the inspection. During the inspection the focus is on pupils currently in the school. This is clear from the evaluation schedule. Most weight will be given to the current progress of all groups of pupils in all year groups and across the curriculum. This means that if, for example, boys with special needs have underperformed in the past and are now making good progress, the weakness has been addressed. However, if this group is making poor progress at the time of the inspection this is evidence of systemic failure.

Academic outcomes

Strengths and weaknesses statements

One of the documents in the pack is 'Dashboard strengths weaknesses wording'. This contains all the possible strengths and weaknesses statements. The school's first act should be to identify its own statements from within the list. This will show how the school's performance compares with other possible statements within the appropriate section.

This list is much more useful than it appears at first glance. For example, in the anonymised secondary example in the guidance pack, two of the strengths relate to added value:

  • Overall KS4 value added was significantly above average.
  • KS4 value added was broadly average or above in nearly all (4 out of 5) subject areas.

The school will be very pleased, but then may become alarmed because one of the weaknesses is:

  • Overall KS4 value added was significantly below average and in the lowest 10% for the group(s): SEN with statement.

The school will no doubt point out that this group was actually three pupils and there were marked differences between the individual pupils. The appropriate weakness statement is:

  • Overall KS4 value added was significantly below average and in the lowest 10% for the group(s): disadvantaged/other (non-disadvantaged)/boys/girls/SEN with statement/SEN without statement/no SEN.

This tells us that this is the smallest of the listed groups and also shows that none of the other groups was significantly below average.

A school could therefore use the list of weaknesses to identity non-weaknesses.

Progress 

Inspectors will be looking for trends over time, differences between subjects and between prior attainment points, and especially differences between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged pupils.

In interpreting the results, you should first note the percentage coverage. In some schools a substantial number of pupils may have joined late without prior attainment scores. Then look at the cohort size under each of the prior attainment bars. This is the total number within that group, not the number that made expected or better progress. Also, check the 'in-gap' number, which is a calculated figure that shows the number of pupils represented by the gap between the school percentage and the national percentage. If the number of pupils is plus or minus one, this is interpreted as close to the national average.

Closing the gaps

Paragraph 178 of the Ofsted handbook states: 'Inspectors will take particular account of the progress made by disadvantaged pupils by the end of the key stage compared with that made nationally by other pupils with similar starting points and the extent to which any gaps in this progress, and consequently in attainment, are closing'. So this is a very important section.

Value added

The strengths and weaknesses statements will interpret positive or negative significance in relation to the confidence interval. Remember that the confidence interval is calculated from the size of the cohort: the larger the cohort the smaller the interval. This means that the interval may change over time as a school grows or shrinks, and in secondary schools there will be different intervals for different subjects.

Do not read too much into small differences. Unless the result is completely outside the confidence interval it should be interpreted as: 'not significantly different from average'.

Personal development, behaviour and wellbeing

The inspection dashboard is also the starting point for inspecting personal development, behaviour and wellbeing. Consistently low attendance for all pupils or groups is one of the descriptors for inadequate, so inspectors will particularly follow up poor attendance over time for groups such as the disadvantaged or SEN.

Toolkit

Use the following item in the toolkit to put the ideas in the article into practice:

About the author

Tony Powell is an experienced Additional Inspector and local authority adviser. He writes extensively on education management, but his main work is in supporting schools to develop systems for self-evaluation, school improvement and continuing professional development. Tony can be contacted at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..