When considering school choices researching all of your options is crucial, especially if you are new to an area. Talking to other parents is of course beneficial but is rarely without emotion generated by personal experiences. One of the most useful tools for parents looking for an independent opinion about the standards of teaching and learning in the schools you are considering is to read the latest Ofsted inspection report.

Ofsted reports directly to Parliament and is both independent and impartial. By law it must inspect schools with the aim of providing information to parents, to promote improvement and to hold schools to account. Reports can be read via the Ofsted website www.ofsted.gov.uk/reports.

The inspection lasts between one and two days and schools receive only one days’ notice prior to the inspection. Inspection teams are keen to see the school as it is and not on show.

The focus of the inspection is the quality of teaching as well as the pupil’s progress and attainment. Information is gathered by talking to the headteacher, governors, staff, parents and pupils. Lessons are observed across the curriculum. They also look at how well the school is led and managed as well as the culture, ethos, behaviour and safety of pupils.

The reports therefore give a good all-round feel for a school’s atmosphere and strengths, as well as highlighting any weaknesses. This makes it far easier for parents to make objective comparisons between schools in a given area.

Independent schools are also inspected, mostly by the Independent Schools’ Inspectorate (ISI). These reports can be found via the website www.isi.net/reports