Satisfactory schools

(Un)Satisfactory? Enhancing Life Chances by Improving 'Satisfactory' Schools

Our study of schools graded ‘satisfactory’ drew on Ofsted data and inspection reports to analyse the location, demographics, and characteristics of these schools, and the relationship between socio-economic background and attendance of a ‘Satisfactory’ school.  Our report shows how:

  • The likelihood of attending a ‘satisfactory’ school is affected by where you live.
  • More affluent pupils tend to attend better schools. For disadvantaged pupils, the reverse is true.
  • Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are over-represented in ‘Satisfactory’ (and ‘Inadequate’) schools
  • The stronger likelihood of attending a poorer quality school applies to working class pupils (‘disadvantaged’) as much as highly disadvantaged pupils


In terms of school improvement, the findings show that:

  • Schools are more likely to be graded 'satisfactory' or 'inadequate' if they have previously been judged 'satisfactory' - hence suggesting a lower capacity to improve among these 'longer term' satisfactory schools.
  • Schools with high proportions of disadvantaged pupils are more likely to decline from 'Outstanding' and 'Good' grades, than are schools with advantaged pupil populations.
  • 'Satisfactory' schools with disadvantaged pupil populations are significantly less likely to improve at the next inspection than are those with advantaged populations.


Hence the number and demographics of 'satisfactory' schools comprise an important issue for social justice. The report analysing the characteristic features of these schools – notably the inconsistency of teaching quality. We present a series of recommendations on the basis of this analysis, arguing that these schools need better support and accountability to enable improvement. Our recommendations address both aspects, including that the title 'Satisfactory' should be changed to 'Performing Inconsistently'. 

Download '(Un)Satisfactory? Enhancing Life Chances by Improving ‘Satisfactory’ Schools' report (PDF, 1MB).