Understanding league tables and Ofsted reports

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At a glance

Guidance on how to use league tables, or 'achievement and attainment tables', and Ofsted reports to understand how a school is faring in comparison to other schools.

What do league tables show?

League tables show test and exam results for all schools. They’re published annually by the government’s Department for Education (DfE).

League tables list:

  • Key Stage 2 test results for all state primary schools
  • GCSE results for all state and independent schools
  • AS and A level results for all schools and sixth form colleges

What are contextual value added (CVA) scores?

CVA scores show how much progress students have made from the start of a Key Stage to the end. They take into account wider issues known to influence results - such as the economic background of pupils - to give a fair guide to a school’s performance.

For primary schools, the CVA scores use 100 as a bench mark. Scores above 100 represent schools where pupils made more progress than similar pupils nationally. Scores below 100 represent schools where pupils made less progress. For secondary schools, the CVA scores use 1000 as the bench mark instead of 100.

Understanding Ofsted reports

League tables can be helpful, but they don’t give you the full picture. Other resources to look at include the school’s website, and Ofsted reports which, like league tables, can also be found online. Ofsted reports can be valuable when your family are deciding which schools to apply to.

Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) is a government department that inspects and regulates educational institutions. It inspects all English state schools at least once every three years. After the inspection, Ofsted publishes a public report that contains information on the school’s performance, its pupils’ work, observation reports on lessons and views from staff, parents and pupils.

The report makes judgements on:

  • achievements and standards
  • pupils' development and wellbeing
  • the quality of teaching and learning
  • how the curriculum is taught
  • the care, guidance and support the school provides
  • how well the school is led and managed

Judgements are scored on a four-point scale:

  • one - outstanding
  • two - good
  • three - satisfactory
  • four - inadequate

The report also makes suggestions for improvement, and the school is expected to put the suggestions into practice.

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