David Laws: Ofsted inspection regime is easier in ‘leafy catchments’

The TES is reporting claims from schools minister David Laws that Ofsted’s inspection system makes it easier for schools in “leafy catchments” to get a good or outstanding rating…

Speaking at the National Association of Head Teachers’ annual conference in Liverpool, the Liberal Democrat minister said Ofsted’s system had to be made fairer because it would be “fatal” if the threat of bad Ofsted judgements deterred people from working in tough schools. 

“There is some evidence that I’ve seen in the department, and I’ve raised this directly with Sir Michael [Wilshaw], that it is tougher for a school in tough and challenging circumstances to get a good or outstanding Ofsted report, even bearing in mind the progress it is making with pupils,” he said.

“If this is the case, if the Ofsted process is weighting prior attainment too much, making it easier for schools in leafy catchments, bluntly, to do well and tougher for schools in more challenging catchments. That’s a real problem.”

If this was happening, he said, it could “make it very unattractive for some of our best people and the best leaders to go and teach in challenging schools…”

More at: Schools minister: Ofsted inspection regime is easier in ‘leafy catchments’


Is this suggestion from David Laws that Ofsted is putting too much emphasis on prior attainment and, as a consequence, making it harder for school in challenging catchments to get good or outstanding ratings a credible one?

If so, is the fix as simple as up-weighting the value given to pupil progress or are there more complex factors at play here?

Do you suspect that schools with better results – regardless of added value and progress – are always likely to do better on Ofsted inspections?

Please give us your reactions in the comments or via Twitter…


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Categories: Policy.


  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove As Schools Minister Laws could have done something about Ofsted, instead he chooses to wait until a GE to mention this

  2. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove He does nothing whilst in a position to do something, then moans when not. A pointless statement from a pointless individual

  3. TW

    Ofsted is simply enforcing the government’s policy of pretending that ability levels are all the same so that schools with a less able intake can be condemned as failures and taken over by profit-seeking edu-businesses.

  4. But Laws contributed to this emphasis on results:
    ‘…schools need to raise their sights in the future.’  17 July 2013

    ‘There is strong evidence that higher ambition and higher floor standards lead to higher standards.’  July 2013 DfE press release endorsed by Clegg and Laws.

    He fed Ofsted’s appetite for high results and didn’t appear too bothered about the effect of this policy on staff recruitment in schools which struggle to reach the arbitrary (and ever-rising) benchmarks.

  5. CathyWood55

    SchoolsImprove Note to Mr Laws – almost everything is ‘easier’ in leafy catchment areas. He needs to get out more.

Let us know what you think...