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School quality ratings are weak predictors of students' achievement and well-being

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Publication details

JournalJournal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry
DateAccepted/In press - 6 May 2020
DateE-pub ahead of print - 2 Jun 2020
DatePublished (current) - 25 Feb 2021
Issue number3
Number of pages10
Pages (from-to)339-348
Early online date2/06/20
Original languageEnglish


BACKGROUND: In England, all state-funded schools are inspected by an independent government agency, the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted). Inspections aim to hold schools accountable and to promote the improvement of education, with the results made available to the public. Ofsted reports intend to index school quality, but their influence on students' individual outcomes has not been previously studied. The aim of the current study was to explore the extent to which school quality, as indexed by Ofsted ratings, is associated with students' educational achievement, well-being and school engagement.

METHODS: We use an England population-based sample of 4,391 individuals, for whom school performance at age 11 and GCSE grades at age 16 were accessed from the National Pupil Database, and who completed measures of well-being and school engagement at age 16.

RESULTS: We found that Ofsted ratings of secondary school quality accounted for 4% of the variance in students' educational achievement at age 16, which was further reduced to 1% of the variance after we accounted for prior school performance at age 11 and family socioeconomic status. Furthermore, Ofsted ratings were weak predictors of school engagement and student well-being, with an average correlation of .03.

CONCLUSION: Our findings suggest that differences in school quality, as indexed by Ofsted ratings, have little relation to students' individual outcomes. Accordingly, our results challenge the usefulness of Ofsted ratings as guides for parents and students when choosing secondary schools.

Bibliographical note

© 2020 The Authors. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health.

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