A website launched by OFSTED today – the official body for inspecting schools in the UK – gives mothers and fathers across England the chance to assess state schools against 12 different criteria. The ratings could trigger fresh inspections of schools if major concerns are raised, writes Graeme Paton at the Telegraph.
The website – Parent View – will allow families to rank all 22,000 state schools in England and allow prospective pupils' families to find out how local primaries and secondaries are judged by existing parents before applying.
The system works as such: Parents are asked to log onto the site and rate their school on various aspects, using a four-point scale from "strongly agree" to "strongly disagree". The information will then be processed by OFSTED and published. OFSTED will also be able to then use the data to determine when and whether a school should be inspected.
Baroness Sally Morgan, the OFSTED chairman, said:
"Parents want to be able to pass on more clearly a picture of a school to each otherâ¦ 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."
The parents will not be required to enter personal details to access the site, only an email address is required. Critics have warned that this anonymity could leave it vulnerable to misuse, writes the Associated Press.
Teaching unions have criticized the system saying it will allow parents and pupils with a grudge against schools to make unfounded claims.
Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said:
"Apart from the obvious question as to what useful purpose the questionnaire will serve, this is a system which is open to abuse. Schools could easily be targeted by parents unfairly, or even in anger, which could result in a false impression being given of the school."
However, 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.
"As if there were not enough already, this will be yet another layer of accountability against which schools will be measured. It really is time that the Government insisted everyone listened to what they themselves say should happen and start trusting teachers, and not put their faith in subjective measurements such as this."