Who fails wins? The impact of failing an Ofsted Inspection

CMPO Viewpoint

Rebecca Allen and Simon Burgess

What is the best way to deal with under-performing schools? This is a key policy concern for an education system. There clearly has to be a mechanism for identifying such schools. But what should then be done with schools which are highlighted as failing their pupils? There are important trade-offs to be considered: rapid intervention may be an over-reaction to a freak year of poor performance, but a more measured approach may condemn many cohorts of students to under-achieve.

This is the issue that Ofsted tackles. Its inspection system identifies failing schools and supervises their recovery. How effective is this? Is it even positive, or does labelling a school as failing push it to ever lower outcomes for its students?

It’s not clear what to expect. Ofsted inspections are often dreaded, and a fail judgement seen as being disastrous. It has been argued it triggers…

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