Students enjoy school and are pleased with the education they receive — a welcome message for curriculum managers, and one that flies in the face of common opinion.

A recent report from Ofsted found that in 80% of secondary schools, pupils were very satisfied with their schooling. Pupils’ satisfaction with their school reveals that satisfaction levels were slightly higher in denominational and in specialist schools than in others.

Students overall are happiest when given the opportunity to offer their views, and when the school then acts on these. In the one-third of schools that did not adequately involve pupils, satisfaction levels were low.

Negative influences

Not surprisingly, students were found to be more likely to be dissatisfied where behaviour and attendance was poor or if they were in a school that was in special measures or identified as having serious weaknesses. Where action was taken to improve behaviour and attendance, the achievements and satisfaction levels of students rose.

The parents’ views were found to be a strong influencing factor — where parents’ views of the school are negative, they are often mirrored by the pupils.

Home background had an effect in other ways too. In schools with a higher proportion of lower-income families, the proportion of pupils who are very satisfied is lower and decreases with increasing free school meal entitlement. But conversely, in schools in the most deprived circumstances, satisfaction among students is high.

What students want

Analysis of 4,000 inspection reports revealed that pupils value good quality teaching, a range of enrichment activities and strong leadership by the headteacher, whatever the circumstances of the school.

They are happiest when achieving good results — students in the schools making the most progress were found to be more than twice as likely to be highly or extremely satisfied with their school as those pupils in the schools where they make least progress.

Students were found to be tolerant of poor accommodation and resources — in one-quarter of secondary schools with unsatisfactory accommodation and resources, pupils are very satisfied with their education.

Message for schools

Findings of the report highlight the importance of finding out from the students themselves what they think about the curriculum you offer, and from there taking action to improve on areas they are not happy with. The judgement that inspectors make about your pupils’ satisfaction levels is likely to inform other opinions they make on your school’s performance and progress in their inspection.

Download the report Pupils’ satisfaction with their school via: