Ofsted asks parents to rate schools
Parents are to be asked to rate schools on issues such as homework and bullying, it has been announced.
Ofsted has launched a new website designed to give parents the chance to air their views anonymously on their child's school.
The Parent View online questionnaire asks parents to give opinions on 12 different statements, ranging from "my child is happy at this school" to "my child receives appropriate homework for their age" and "this school deals effectively with bullying". It also asks if parents would recommend their child's school to another parent.
Those completing the questionnaire are asked to say how strongly they agree or disagree with the statements, and visitors will be able to look at the responses for each question for individual schools. But some teaching unions have raised concerns that allowing parents to rate schools anonymously leaves the site open to abuse.
Ofsted chair Baroness Sally Morgan said: "Parents want to be able to pass on more clearly a picture of a school to each other. We know it's already out there, so in a sense you can stand outside a school gate and pick something up, or there's things in the local paper, but it's to try and make it somewhat more systematic for people to be able to give regular feedback."
Parents can already look at league tables to find out a school's exam results, she said. "But you can't necessarily find out really how behaviour is in a school and you can't really find out about the leadership in a school." She suggested that the site will be used by parents looking for more information when they are deciding which school to send their child to, and by Ofsted when considering when and whether a school should be inspected.
If large numbers begin raising questions about a certain aspect of a school it could spark concerns. Baroness Morgan said: "Whilst parents' views alone cannot trigger an inspection, they will provide a vital piece of the jigsaw."
To access the site, a parent must enter an email address, but personal details such as names are not required. Union leaders have warned that the site must be transparent, as anonymity could leave it open to misuse.
Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "Parents are generally very supportive of their children's schools. What is important for parents is that they have a voice in schools and that their views are taken seriously. This is most effectively achieved though direct communication with teachers. It's not clear why parents, who may have quite legitimate questions to which they seek answers, would choose this route to seek answers."
Ofsted insists that it has systems in place to flag up potential signs of misuse, and headteachers will be able to report concerns if they believe the site has been misused.