Misuse of Ofsted data

Office of Statistics Regulation agree with NEU complaint that Gillian Keegan’s use of Ofsted statistics is misleading.


Today, the Office for Statistics Regulation has written to the NEU in response to our complaint about the misleading use of Ofsted data in a recent press release [1] and in a tweet [2] by Gillian Keegan. The complaint was brought by the National Education Union on 18 April and centred on the failure of the DfE and the Education Secretary to be open about the very different methods by which Ofsted grades have been measured since 2010. The NEU’s complaint letter can he viewed here [3] and the OSR response is here [4].

Grades have changed meaning repeatedly over the past 14 years. The OSR agrees with the NEU that the three changes to the Ofsted framework, including the 2012 change from 'Satisfactory' to 'Requires Improvement', as well as the extended pause on inspections of 'Outstanding' schools and disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic likely influenced the number of good and outstanding schools. All of these factors mean that the criteria used to grade schools can change from one inspection to the next and that how a school is graded can come down to when it was inspected. 

In response to the OSR, Ofsted has updated their guidance to say, “Users should be aware when examining inspection outcomes over a long time period that this is a high-level comparison and spans a period of change in the education system and multiple inspection frameworks.” Ofsted admits [5] that changes to inspection framework among other factors “limit that the comparability of inspection outcomes over time” and that this statistic should be “used with caution”, particularly when comparing outcomes before and after the 2015/16 academic year.

Commenting on the decision of the OSR, Daniel Kebede, General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:  

"The NEU is pleased that the Office for Statistics Regulation has told Ofsted to clarify that it is difficult to make comparisons of Ofsted judgements over long periods of time.

"It was her Government that moved the goalposts in 2012, changing the definitions of Ofsted school gradings. It was her Government that changed the inspection framework not once, not twice, but three times in a single decade. This renders any comparison between 2010 and 2024 completely meaningless. 

"While Ofsted’s single-word judgements are a discredited and inaccurate picture of the work that schools do, it is unacceptable that the Education Secretary is manipulating them to distract from the real issues that are facing schools and our children and young people’s education. 

"All is not well with our education system. Chronic underfunding, a teacher recruitment and retention crisis, subjects dropped from the curriculum, subjects routinely taught by non-specialist teachers, SEND and mental health support in tatters, buildings crumbling. This is a snapshot of the education system our children and young people have been handed by this Government.

"Ahead of a General Election, parties in power depend on the fading memory of voters when they reach the ballot box. But for parents, carers and all school staff, a broken system at the hands of a Government who for 14 years have seriously neglected children and young people’s education will not easily be forgotten." 


1.        https://www.gov.uk/government/news/first-step-towards-introducing-the-advanced-british-standard

2.        https://twitter.com/GillianKeegan/status/1768225069426241911

3.         https://osr.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/correspondence/neu-to-ed-humpherson-comparisons-of-the-proportion-of-good-and-outstanding-schools-over-time/

4.         https://osr.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/correspondence/ed-humpherson-to-neu-comparisons-of-the-proportion-of-good-and-outstanding-schools-over-time/

5.        https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/state-funded-schools-inspections-and-outcomes-as-at-31-december-2023/methodology-state-funded-schools-inspections-and-outcomes-as-at-31-december-2023#introduction




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