5 Apr 2017

UK Civil Service People Survey vs Ofsted Staff Questionnaire

Ofsted inspectors issue a 12-point questionnaire for staff to complete online during an inspection. Should school leaders use these questions between inspections to understand how their staff feel?


The Ofsted inspection questions for staff do a good job of telling the inspector what staff think at that point in time, with enough detail to satisfy the requirements of an inspection crammed chock full with evidence and paperwork.

But they aren’t really detailed enough to help school leaders understand what’s really working well, and what needs to change. If you are willing to invest a little more time and effort, you can get a lot more out of a more detailed questions.

These are the Ofsted questions are (all answered with Strongly Agree, Agree, Neither, Disagree, or Strongly Disagree):

  1. I am proud to be a member of staff at this school
  2. My contribution to the school is valued
  3. I know what we are trying to achieve as a school
  4. I am involved in what the school is trying to achieve
  5. I contribute to the school’s process of self-evaluation
  6. The school makes appropriate provision for my professional development
  7. The school is well led
  8. Governors do an effective job in this school
  9. The school runs smoothly on a daily basis
  10. Children are safe in this school
  11. Any unacceptable behaviour by pupils is consistently well managed
  12. The school successfully meets the differing needs of individual pupils

A more thorough alternative is the UK Civil Service People Survey. This has been used for years in across all branches of the Civil Service. It is relied on by leaders at all levels in the Civil Service to understand how their staff feel about their jobs. You can use it in your school to get the same sort of professional, in-depth understanding that Civil Service leaders have.

It has many more nuanced questions than the Ofsted one. It covers everything in the Ofsted questionnaire, but in much more detail.

For example, if staff respond neutrally to the statement “The school is well led” in the Ofsted Survey, what does that tell you? Nothing you can really act on.

But the Civil Service People Survey asks whether leaders are good at motivating their staff, giving clear feedback, managing poor performance in others, and so on:

sample from UK Civil Service People survey

So you can see where, exactly, your leadership needs improving, and where you are doing well (in the eyes of your staff, at least).

You can copy-paste the questions into a free survey tool like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms, or try my ready-made version (free trial, then £50 per survey) here at SchoolStaffSurveys.com

About the author: Bruce Greig is an entrepreneur and has been a school governor since 2011. He served as Chair of Governors through two Ofsted inspections and four headteachers. He set up SchoolStaffSurveys.com after discovering how enlightening an anonymous staff survey can be and decided to make it easy for every school to run them.


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