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In March 2013, Engagement in Education published an academic paper about how Parental Engagement was being covered within Ofsted Inspections. The paper was written following an in-depth analysis of 222 Osted reports conducted under the new framework.


The results were alarming and shocking. Professor Charles Desforges, Emeritus Professor at the University of Exeter has said that our findings are ‘significant’ and has urged us to have them published more widely – suggesting the national media as an outlet. He cited our paper and recommended this website at his national conference on Parental Engagement held in London in June 2013.


Prior to publication a copy of our report was shared with Ofsted. The initial response has been positive but we are yet to hear about any substantive action on their part to rectify the problems we have identified.


The report mentions what we consider to be a serious security issue surrounding the validity of data contained within Parent View. We met with Ofsted Comms in mid- May 2013 and freely gave them information about how this can be rectified. We have yet to hear if that advice will be acted upon.


Our report concludes that the training, if any, that Ofsted inspectors have received on Parental Engagement was poor at best. This needs to be addressed by Ofsted as a matter of urgency.


Remember,  Parental Engagement is defined as parents supporting their children’s learning in the home.


We know from decades of established research that Parental Engagement is a successful way of raising pupil achievement and attainment. It therefore follows that Parental Engagement should be a strategy for school improvement.


Where Parental Engagement was reported correctly, the schools concerned were either given sound advice on how it could be used as a strategy for meaningful school improvement, or they were credited for the work they were doing.


54% of the Ofsted reports that did not mention Parental Engagement within the ‘What this school has to do to improve’ section, contained comments within the main body of the report that could have used Parental Engagement as an effective and obvious strategy for improvement. In only 18.9% of the reports was Parental Engagement linked with positive learning outcomes for children.


There are 4 issues with Ofsted’s reporting of Parental Engagement:


There is a confusion evident within the inspection reports about the definition of Parental Engagement. In those inspections where Parental Engagement is defined accurately, schools are provided with a new strategy for improvement and an untapped, free resource. Those inspectors who confuse Parental Engagement with Parental Involvement invariably only recount the views of parents. Others believe that Parental Engagement happens when schools ‘inform’ parents about progress. This suggests a very one-sided approach to ‘partnership’ and we need to ensure that Ofsted reports do not appear to give tacit endorsement to practices that restrict the development of relationships between school and home. There needs to be some level of differentiation that leads at some point to parents and carers being recognised as partners involved in an open dialogue.


Parental Engagement is used as a strategy for school improvement in just 15.4% of the ‘What this school has to do to improve’ section of the reports studied. All the evidence and research tells us that it could be one of the most effective strategies in raising achievement.


The majority of Ofsted reports mention parental opinion as gleaned from surveys and interviews but fail to explore Parental Engagement and the impact it can have on learning outcomes for children.


Ofsted has proven to be a very effective way of changing practice in schools. If they continue to confuse Parental Engagement (which improves pupil attainment) with Parental Involvement (which does not improve the attainment of the children of the parents being ‘involved’) schools will soon find that their efforts are not leading to the progress expected  and Parental Engagement as a strategy for school improvement will be de-valued.


Our advice is quite clear:  

  • do not assume Ofsted will know the difference between Parental Engagement and Parental Involvement

  • have examples of both backed up by evidence that you can show Ofsted Inspectors

  • conduct your interview in such a way that you make it clear that the definition of Parental Engagement is obvious to all

  • for a judgement of ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ it is not enough to show that you are just trying to engage parents “including those who might find working with the school difficult” you must be able to provide evidence that they have responded positively to your strategies.



For more detailed information we recommend that you download and read our full report which can be accessed by clicking the graphic below.






Inspection problems

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