IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Project examining whether Ofsted judgement prevents schools improving receives funding

5 December 2019

A UCL Institute of Education (IOE) research project exploring why schools that have been rated as ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’ by Ofsted since 2005 struggle to improve has received funding by the Nuffield Foundation.

Secondary school classroom

These schools have been described as 'intractable' and their existence raises questions about why some schools struggle so hard to improve.

This mixed methods study, which runs until August 2021, will be the first to focus on ‘intractable’ schools. It aims to understand their characteristics compared with similar but ‘non-intractable’ schools, and the reasons why they have been unable to improve. It will also address the claim made by some head teachers that a persistently low Ofsted rating can act as a barrier for change.

The research team comprises of the IOE’s Dr Bernardita Munoz-Chereau, Professor Melanie Ehren (Free University of Amsterdam) and Jo Hutchinson (Education Policy Institute). They will conduct secondary analysis of data from Ofsted on school performance and on the school workforce. 

They will also conduct 16 case studies, looking in depth at five ‘intractable’ primary schools and five ‘intractable’ secondary schools as well as three primary schools and three secondary schools for comparison. Each case study will involve a series of interviews and focus groups with head teachers, teachers, parents and governors to explore the factors that seem to have influenced school improvement efforts.

The findings of the research will inform policy efforts to drive school improvement and improve the school accountability system. In addition, they will support schools by highlighting examples of good practice.