The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted), was set up on 1st September 1992. It is a non-ministerial department with a remit to improve standards of achievement and quality of education.
Ofsted inspections were initially carried out in Nottinghamshire schools on a four yearly basis. After completion of the first round Ofsted targetted schools with weaknesses for early inspection in the second, and future, rounds.
Inspections are conducted according to a standard framework and focus on delivery of the National Curriculum and on the standards of attainment of pupils. They allow you the assurance that the standard of education provided for your child is continually monitored and evaluated, and improvements constantly sought.
The inspections are carried out by teams of Ofsted accredited independent inspectors, led by a Registered Inspector. They vary in size from a minimum of three up to about eight. Only people with appropriate experience and training are allowed to participate in inspections.
Teams will generally spend a week in a school although in secondary schools this may stretch to the end of a second week, which is the maximum length of time allowed. They focus on a number of key elements which allow you as a parent to gain an in-depth knowledge and understanding of what the school is like. As well as the quality of education and standards achieved in the school, inspections also comment on how the school manages its financial resources and how it will develop your child's spiritual, moral, social and cultural understanding.
Once the inspection is completed the Registered Inspector submits both a full report and a summary report, which details the main findings of the inspection and key issues for action. They are sent to the school, local authority and Ofsted as well as being made publicly available. Copies of the summary report are sent to the parents of every pupil at the school concerned.
The school's response to the report, in the form of an action plan, is then completed within 40 days and also made freely available to parents.
Ofsted reports can therefore give you a picture of how a school was doing at the time of its inspection. However, you may find it more useful to ask the Head Teacher about how the school has responded to its inspection and what areas its action plan covers.
The Ofsted website has more details on how Ofsted reports are compiled and copies of reports, which you can download, for all Nottinghamshire schools at www.ofsted.gov.uk/reports/.