Mixed response to Ofsted plan to reform school inspection grades for social media era

PUBLISHED: 07:00 01 April 2014

Library picture of Ofsted logo.

Library picture of Ofsted logo.


Proposals to re-name the grades Ofsted gives schools in a bid to adapt the inspectorate to the world of social media have met with a mixed response.

Schools are currently placed in one of four categories, “outstanding”, “good”, “requires improvement” or “inadequate”, but there are fears such designations are not fit for purpose when used on Twitter, which puts a premium on shorter words.

The reforms would replace the current grades with words of no more than four characters.

Ofsted bosses said the new grades would be easier to fit into Twitter messages, which are limited to 140 characters, and would help connect younger people with the inspectorate.

• Click here to see our interactive map of 2013 Ofsted grades for Norfolk schools

The reforms are part of Ofsted’s wider efforts to adapt to social media, which have seen senior leaders Sean Harford and Mike Cladingbowl recently open Twitter accounts.

From the start of April 2015, the 11-character top grade “outstanding” will be re-named “fab!”, and the 20-character grade “requires improvement” will become “iffy”. The “good” judgement is unaffected.

However, concerns have focused on the most sensitive bottom grade, which can have a serious impact on a school’s reputation.

It is understood chief inspector Sir Mike Wilshaw favours the popular internet acronym “lol”, which stands for “laugh out loud”, as the organisation attempts to implement a trendy, child-centred grading policy.

However, there were fears some people might mistake it for “lots of love”, and other options include “omg” or “aghh”.

A consultation is seeking views of parents, teachers and students.

The moves come as the Department for Education continues its own attempts to become more Twitter friendly.

In 2012, Liberal Democrat minister Sarah Teather was replaced with David Laws, meaning that four of the department’s six ministers now have four-character surnames.

Earlier efforts to improve the department’s social media presence were judged less successful when civil servants found that Michael Gove’s twitter handle @TheRightHonorableMichaelGoveSecretaryOfStateForEducationCabinetMinisterAndConservativeMemberOfParliamentForSurreyHeathInSouthEastEngland only allowed people to send him two-letter messages.

Education minister and South West Norfolk MP Liz Trus said: “Cool.”

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