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Research round-up (7 September 2018)

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PAC report: Ofsted's inspection of schools 

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has released a report that summarises its findings from the Ofsted’s inspection of schools’ inquiry. The key findings and recommendations are listed below:

  • We (PAC) recognise that Ofsted’s budget has been cut significantly in recent years, and the amount it spent on inspecting the schools sector fell by 52% in real terms between 1999–2000 and 2017–18
    • However, this has led Ofsted and the Department for Education to focus narrowly on the cost of inspection rather than the value of getting independent assurance about schools’ effectiveness
  • There have been clear shortcomings in Ofsted’s performance — it has completed fewer inspections than planned, it has failed to meet its targets on how often schools should be inspected and schools are being left for longer between inspections
  • Ofsted now inspects 'good' schools through a short one-day inspection, and under legislation, 'outstanding' schools are exempt from routine re-inspection altogether. Ofsted is, therefore, not providing the level of independent assurance about the quality of education that schools and parents need
  • The department needs to be clear about what the purpose of an inspection is and where responsibility for improving underperforming schools lies. 


  1. Ofsted should report annually to parliament, in it its annual report and accounts, on how many schools haven't been inspected within the statutory target and the reasons why
  2. The department should re-examine the rationale for exempting schools graded 'outstanding' from routine re-inspection and report back to us on its assessment in December 2018
  3. Ofsted and the department should review whether the short inspection model provides sufficient, meaningful assurance about schools’ effectiveness and evaluate the costs and benefits of alternative approaches, including carrying out more full inspections. It should report back to us on the findings in December 2018  
  4. In the report to us in December 2018, Ofsted should set out its plans, with specific actions and target dates, for collecting more and better evidence from parents about schools
  5. Ofsted should write to us in April 2019 with an update on the gap between the numbers of HM inspectors employed and budgeted for, and the turnover rate. Ofsted should also consider opening up its training to head teachers and deputies working in schools graded as 'requires improvement' and 'inadequate', so these schools can benefit in the same way as schools that are performing well
  6. HM chief inspector should write to us by October 2018 with her reflections on the main risks to schools’ effectiveness and the systemic causes of poor performance, including the impact of funding pressures
  7. As part of its review of accountability, the department should make clear where responsibility for school improvement lies. The department, working with Ofsted, should also assess whether the balance of spending is right between different parts of the system for school accountability and improvement, including between Ofsted and the regional schools’ commissioners. 
Newly qualified teachers (NQTs): annual survey 2017

The annual newly qualified teachers (NQT) survey report has been released by the Department for Education (DfE). For the survey, it interviewed 1,639 NQTs who gained certification between December 2015 and November 2016. The key findings are outlined below.

Key findings

  • In line with previous years, eight in 10 (81%) rated the overall quality as 7-10 out of 10
  • More than 80% of NQTs gave a rating of 7-10 out of 10 for the following aspects:
- Following high standards of personal and professional conduct (91%)

- Taking responsibility for pupils' safeguarding (91%)

- Planning effective lessons (80%)

  • Less than 50% of NQTs gave a rating of 7-10 out of 10 for the following aspects:

- Teaching reading and comprehension - secondary school (41%)
- Assessing the progress of SEND pupils (40%)
- Teaching pupils with English as an additional language (39%)

  • In terms of workload, 65% said they discussed their workload with their training provider or placement school prior to induction

- Of those who did have a discussion, 62% said the workload was the same as expected while 28% said it was larger than expected

  • NQTs were positive about the support they received to reduce unnecessary workloads; 52% felt they were encouraged to eliminate unnecessary workload relating to planning and teaching resources, and 47% felt they were encouraged to eliminate unnecessary workload related to marking

- There was less evidence for support in reducing data management (38% of NQTs reported they had been encouraged to do this).

About the research

  • Due to the government in purdah, the fieldwork period was later than in previous years (18 May to 18 July in 2016). The later fieldwork period meant NQTs received an invitation to participate in the survey more than a year after they completed their induction.

Playing out: a children's commissioner’s report into the importance to children of play and physical activity

In a report authored by the children’s commissioner, it notes how important play and physical activity are to children. The report cites how playing in a sports team, attending a holiday club or being active in the park can lead to children having improved mental health and cognitive abilities, better physical health, and healthier social development and interactions with their peers. 

  • Just one in four (23%) boys and one in five (20%) girls aged 5 to 15 met the CMO’s recommendation of 60 minutes of activity each day in 2015
  • With mental health being the most frequently raised issue with the children’s commissioner, the report argues that children are not only putting their physical health at risk but also their mental health
  • When asked, children could name local facilities such as parks and leisure centres; however, they gave reasons such as not enough variety and high costs as reasons the facilities weren’t used
    • Younger children felt intimidated by older children in the parks and said toilets were often dirty or out of order while the sports equipment was dated and faulty
  • Based on its findings, the report makes various recommendations to the government, local areas and parents. It suggests the government put out-of-school activity at the heart of the plan to reduce obesity and also focus on play and activity in response to other challenges faced by children (such as mental health and technology use). Bureaucracy in areas receiving financial help for after-school childcare needs to be reduced and play schemes in disadvantaged areas need more funding. Finally, children’s play and physical activity need to be a public health priority. 

Trends in school spending: 2002-2003 to 2016-2017

The Department for Education (DfE) has compiled a single time series of schools' spending data covering the period from 2002-03 to 2016-17.

Key findings 

  • Spending per pupil on teachers has risen by much less than total spending per pupil from 2002-3 to 2016-17, with spending on teachers rising by only 17% per pupil in real terms over the period, compared with the increase of 42% for total spending per pupil
  • Spending per pupil on education support staff has risen by a much greater percentage than total spending per pupil, with spending on education support staff rising by 138% per pupil in real terms over the period, again compared with 42% for total spending per pupil
  • Spending on exam fees was 37% higher in 2016-17 than 2002-03 (although this is a decrease since its peak in 2010), compared with a 42% increase in total spending
  • Spending on agency supply teaching staff was 64% higher in 2016-17 than 2002-03, compared with a 42% increase in total spending. 

About the research

  • The data comes from a single time series of school spending data that covered a period from 2002 -16. This involved calculating spending on a per-pupil basis and, after 2011-12, combining the separate spending returns for LA maintained schools and academies which have some differences. 

Also this fortnight

  • Education DataLab has released a summary of the provisional key stage two data for 2018
  • The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government has released provisional figures on children’s services spending. The figures show that the largest decrease in local authority expenditure was on education services. Spending on education services fell by £1bn, or 3.2%, largely as a result of schools converting to academy status
  • The Children’s Society has released new research that found one in six children are self-harming
  • A report from the DfE explores employer perceptions of T level industry placements.