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Secret education business

By Graeden Horsell - posted Thursday, 15 March 2007

Good test results, by themselves, are not the sole reason why parents might choose one school over another. But when such results are made public, parents are in a position to make a more informed decision.

Imagine. You are moving to a new city from overseas or interstate and you want to know which school will best meet the needs of your children.

If you live in England, the answer is simple. Look at the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) Internet site and you can search for the name of a particular school and download the school’s inspection report.


Government-funded schools are inspected every six years and a written report is made publicly available. The report addresses questions such as:

  • What sort of school is it?
  • How high are standards?
  • How well are pupils taught?
  • How well is the school led and managed?

Not only do inspectors evaluate the school, but schools are also identified as successful or underperforming. In the language of OFSTED, inspectors have to decide:

… whether or not the school, although providing an acceptable standard of education, nevertheless has serious weaknesses, in one or more areas of its work; whether or not the school, although not identified as having serious weaknesses, is judged to be underachieving.

Unlike schools in Australia, where there are no official sanctions or rewards, English schools are evaluated and, if found wanting, face the consequences.

Such transparency is the opposite of the situation in Australia, for example, where Governments refuse to rank schools or to make test results widely available.


In addition to inspectors’ reports, it is also possible to search the OFSTED Internet site to find out how well schools perform in national tests. In primary schools, for example, all 11-year-old students take tests linked to a national curriculum.

The test results are then posted on the Internet. Parents can search a database by postal code, by local education authority or by the name of a particular school. Shown against the national average and the average grades achieved by the local education authority are the grades achieved by individual schools.

Greater accountability and transparency are also being forced on American schools. President Bush’s national education bill requires state testing in reading and maths for every child from grades three to eight.

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About the Author

Graeden Horsell is Founder and Leader of the School Governance Alliance in South Australia, an education advocacy group representing the interests of state school governing councillors.

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