Ofcom school inspections used to provide parents with a wealth of factual data that could help parents see through wooly waffle and vague statements about "values" and "nurturing every child" and help parents decide if a school was good or not.
The right to this data has been destoryed with new simplified Section 5 reports. Restore this right now. At low cost schools could publish data every year. Or Ofstead could publish it for them. They already collect this data for the Government, so the extra cost would minimal.
Here is the information that I, as a parent, would look for when trying to shortlist schools or when considering moving to a new area:
Number of pupils (years 7-11 and sixth form separately), male and female numbers.
Number of teachers
New teachers in the year
How many established teachers have left
Teachers who have joined and left in the same year (staff turnover is an important indicator of an unhappy school).
Number of pupils who took every GCSE subject and numbers by grade band, by age or 1st attempt/2nd attempt (there is a huge difference between a school where most pupils take GCSEs in Hairdressing, Geography and Art at 16, bumping up the league table results, and schools where 14 year olds routinely sit Maths, and a third school where a minority of pupils sit hard subjects, and the same pupils resit once or twice if necessary to improve grades, but all three would score the same in league tables).
Number of pupils in GCSE points bands (do 10% of pupils get no GCSEs or 20%? Averages won't tell you that).
Ethnic breakdown of the school.
Number of temporary exclusions and indication of how many pupils that refers to.
Number of permanent exclusions.
Pupil outcomes – number of Y11s gone on to further education categorised by 6th form in same school, Other 6th form, FE College, not gone on to further education.
– number that have gone to University by rough Uni category (Oxbridge, Russel Group, middling, desperate, USA Ivy League) and subject or type of subject.
– number employed / unemployed after 5 years.
Why is this idea important?
Numbers are not everything when selecting schools, but they do provide a way of seeing through the lies and evasions that poor schools put in their leaflets – the worse the school the better they are at disguising it. People who have not spent 5 years reading local papers don't have much to go on, particularly if new to an area.
Top exam grades are not everything either – parents know that too many exams are wrong for some children, but more subtly, it has be profoundly unhelpful to send a child to a school that has good results but in the wrong subject areas – sciences, languages, arts, etc.
Children's education and youth is too valuable to waste, school selection is one of hardest and slowest wrong decisions to undo. Head teachers already have this info, so does the Government, why not publish it each year?