Should you rely on ranking tables or inspection reports when choosing a school?

Should you rely on ranking tables or inspection reports when choosing a school

In this article, we will explore the advantages and disadvantages of using league tables and explain why Ofsted or ISI reports are useful when selecting a school.

How useful are ranking tables when choosing a school?

School ranking tables are based on GCSE and A level examination results. They are a quick and easy measure of success and can certainly provide a hasty overview of performance or useful starting point in deciding which institutions to consider. However, they lack depth. Unlike university league tables, school rankings do not consider information such as teaching quality, student satisfaction, academic progression or pastoral support. Value-added is not considered in a ranking table nor will tables specify whether a school is academically selective. Whilst ranking tables are produced in good faith and are an accurate comparator of schools’ results, they do not tell you the full story.

How to get the most from a ranking table

There are a range of tables available, all of which aim to present information about school results. However, the tables do differ so before drawing any conclusions consider the following questions:

  • Have all of the schools in the country been included?
  • Where has the data used to rank the schools come from?
  • Is the comparison between schools accurate (are any schools in the table academically selective)?

Having a complete understanding of the material that is being presented will enable a more objective analysis of it, making it more useful. If any schools do stand out as a result of the information in a league table it is advisable to perform some additional research to gain a more in-depth understanding of that institution before drawing any firm conclusions.

Many schools and colleges are not included in league tables. This is not unusual and there are a number of reasons why that may be the case depending on each situation so do not be alarmed if an institution you are researching is not entered. Information about results will usually be available on any particular school’s website or can be obtained from the Registrar or Head of Admissions if you would like to find out more.

Why are Ofsted or ISI reports so useful?

During an Ofsted or Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) inspection, a team of assessors visit a school or college at very short notice and spend a period of three consecutive days conducting research about that institution. They obtain evidence thoroughly via lesson observations, speaking to staff, students and parents, and surveying school paperwork, which enables the team to reach balanced conclusions about key areas of a school’s performance. The chief inspector then releases a report summarising the findings of the team which is publicly available (and should be displayed on a school or college’s website).

The care taken in the holistic gathering of evidence and the comprehensive impartial description of findings makes inspection reports the most useful resource for parents and students who want to learn more about a school. For those who do not want to spend a lot of a time ploughing through a long paper, the report begins with headline judgements summarising areas such as teaching, student welfare and governance. These judgments range on a scale of four from Outstanding-Inadequate (Ofsted) and Excellent-Unsatisfactory (ISI).

Inspection reports are often used as the only independent metric by parents to judge the overall quality of schools.

To find out more

To learn more about the inspection process, visit the Ofsted and ISI webpages.

MPW is delighted to be the only education group in England to have received the best in class rating from Ofsted/the ISI in every single category across all three of its campuses. Click the link below for further information about the inspection reports of our MPW colleges: