Monitoring inspections help head teachers to focus

A new report from Durham University forms part of a comparative study to measure the impact of school inspections on teaching and learning in eight European countries.

This report describes the results from three years of data collection in England, which ran from January 2011 to December 2013. Each year head teachers in primary and secondary schools were asked to complete an online survey. The survey included questions on educational quality and change capacity in schools, changes made in the quality and change capacity of the school, inspection activities in the school, the school’s acceptance and use of feedback, the extent to which inspection standards set expectations and promote self-evaluations, and choice/voice/exit of stakeholders in response to inspection reports. The survey results were used to create a number of scales, such as capacity building, school effectiveness, setting expectations, and accepting feedback.

The authors found that on all the scales used, in the first two years of data collection, schools that received their main inspection and an extra monitoring inspection scored higher on average than the schools that received only a main inspection. In the third year, this was also true on almost all scales. A number of these differences (particularly the scales where schools were commenting on their improvement activities compared to last year) were large and statistically significant in the first year of data collection.

Source: Years 1, 2 and 3 Principal Survey Data Analysis: England (2014), Centre for Evaluation & Monitoring, Durham University.

Tackling the achievement gap for children in care

A recent Ofsted report explores the impact virtual schools have on tackling the achievement gap between children in care and their peers. Virtual schools are established by local authorities and work with looked after children as if they were in one school. They liaise with the schools the children attend, track the progress they make and support their educational achievement.

The study examines virtual schools in nine local authorities and finds that overall impact is mostly positive. There is good evidence that they raise the profile of educational attainment for children in care, promote much better communication between professionals, increase the involvement of carers in children’s education, and help to improve attendance and reduce exclusions. However, there is little evidence that they are yet able to reduce the achievement gap between looked after children and their peers. Progress between key stages 3 and 4 is generally slower than during earlier key stages, and improving the percentage of those attaining five or more good GCSE passes, including English and mathematics, remains a challenge for most local authorities.

Source: The impact of virtual schools on the educational progress of looked after children (2012), Ofsted

Homework, attendance, and learning quality predict student success

Time spent on homework in the secondary years is a relatively strong predictor of pupil success in English, maths, and science. That is one of the findings of the latest report from the EPPSE project (the Effective Pre-school, Primary and Secondary Education project), which has followed around 3,000 children since the age of 3 in 1997. Findings also indicate that the ratings given to secondary schools by Ofsted for the quality of pupils’ learning and learners’ attendance were good predictors of better attainment and progress. For example, better progress was made by EPPSE students in the three core subjects when they attended an “outstanding” compared to an “inadequate” school in terms of the Ofsted quality rating.

The report looks at a range of factors that influence children’s success across the following domains: individual student, family, and home; pre-school; primary school; and secondary school. The report concludes that there is no one factor alone which explains achievement and development; rather, it is the combination of factors that make a difference to young people’s long-term life chances.

Source: EPPSE 3 to 14 final report from the key stage 3 phase: influences on students’ development from age 11 to 14 (2012), Department for Education