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New Ofsted regime: 'Inadequate' schools double

News | Published in TES Newspaper on 5 March, 2010 | By: William Stewart and John Elmes

TES analysis vindicates heads’ worst fears

The first six months of Ofsted’s new inspection regime has seen a near doubling in the proportion of schools judged “inadequate” while the proportion rated “outstanding” has more than halved.

The findings of an analysis by The TES of all school inspections published since September, when the new framework was introduced, and the end of February have been greeted with shock and dismay by heads’ leaders.

John Dunford, Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) general secretary, called for an “urgent and radical review” of Ofsted’s inspection framework.

Since its introduction, only 9.2 per cent of schools have been given the watchdog’s top rating compared with 19 per cent under the old regime.

The proportion of schools put in special measures or given formal notices to improve has grown from 4 per cent to 7.5 per cent.

Ofsted refused to comment on the findings ahead of the publication of its own statistics next week.

The watchdog has always insisted that its new-style inspections would “raise the bar” on its expectations of schools.

It is also likely to argue that the shift in proportions is partly due to its decision to focus on poorer schools and increase the gap between inspections for schools previously judged “good” or “outstanding” from three to five years.

But The TES has found that schools were inspected before Christmas, in the first wave of the new framework, despite being judged “good” only three years earlier.

Among them was Kelsey Park Sports College, Beckenham, which was given a notice to improve in November. Head Brian Lloyd believes that his school was unfairly penalised for a blip in exam results.

Like many of his fellow heads, he believes the new framework is tying inspectors’ hands, preventing them from using their professional judgment. He said he was told by an inspector: “I would like to give you a better grade but I can’t.”

Mick Brookes, general secretary of heads’ union the NAHT, said the idea of the inspections being skewed towards poorer schools did not tally with his experience.

He called for Ofsted to stop revamping the inspection framework. “We’ve got to stop tinkering with the system and have a measure of school performance over time,” he said. “All this nonsense about raising the bar is exactly that - nonsense.”

Primary schools had the biggest proportionate increase in “inadequate” verdicts under the new framework, from 3 to 7.3 per cent of reports. Secondaries saw the biggest drop in “outstanding” judgments from 22 to 9.5 per cent.

The issue is likely to feature prominently at ASCL’s annual conference in London this weekend, with many members feeling there is an unfair emphasis on raw exam results. Dr Dunford is expected to use his speech on Sunday to say: “Schools and colleges need to be judged in context, not just on data.

“Too often the inspection judgment is little more than an echo of the data, paying little heed to the context. Some feel that the judgments could have been telephoned in beforehand.”

A Department for Children, Schools and Families spokesman said that June’s 21st century schools white paper had made clear the intention to raise the bar on school inspection. “We expect Ofsted’s inspection grades published next week to reflect this,” he added.

Original paper headline: ‘Inadequate’ schools double under new Ofsted regime

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Comment (11)

  • Get rid of OFSTED, burn government advice & recent educational research.
    Introduce discipline and common sense and get rid of bureaucracy and political correctness. Teaching will improve immediately and students will be better prepared for their future.

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    5 March, 2010


  • Mr Job spot on. I'm on teaching practice right now and in 7 weeks there so far the school has had a senior management inspection, an LEA inspection, and OFSTED are due any time. The staff are completely stressed out and demotivated. They are excellent teachers trying everything they can to do their best for kids who quite frankly mostly turn up with very limited motivation to learn and achieve. If it came to exams in x-box, playstation, Cheryl Cole, and X-factor they'd all be A* students. I'm having serious second thoughts about this as a career. Teachers are basically blamed for the ills of a society that has molly coddled it's kids and instilled no sense of work ethic in them.

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    5 March, 2010


  • I feel inspection systems are needed as there are school heads and teachers who come to work with little motivation or care for their very responsible job, for whatever reason.

    However, inpsection systems have to be built on realism and a solid knowledge of what is possible in the context a school is working in. I believe education is a potentially life changing and life enhancing opportunity for any child, regardless of where they come from or which school they attend, but changing the views and ambitions of some children is a hugely more difficult task than for others and the system of inspection needs to understand and reflect this.

    Furthermore, we seem to be moving more and more to a view that there is some single way of teaching and being successful in school and that if only everybody did X, every school would be outstanding.

    Human nature and history shows that there are very few times when one dogmatic approach is successful. If we are asked to treat each child and their learning needs as individuals, then schools and teachers should be afforded the same respect.

    Schools and the inspection system need to be de-politicised and run by an independent body free of party political pressure and the current habit of thinking they can negate all of society's problems before they happen.

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    6 March, 2010


  • Endlessly changing "The Framework" undermines improvement, not helps it. Well trained, committed, trusted inspectors who are allowed to exercise informed, professional judgement is what's needed, not endlessly seeking and changing the magical grail-like "Framework". This promotes a Soviet-like "guess the Regime's latest thinking" climate which infects CPD and disempowers school leaders.

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    6 March, 2010


  • @darrenturner
    I was agreeing with what you said until I got to the last sentence. Just wanted to point out that legally, children don't go to school to work, they go to school to be educated. 'Learning and achieving' is a poor substitute for education generally, because what's on offer is usually on the government's/Ofsted's/ the school's terms, and not always what the children actually want to learn. And before you say it, the agenda is set for the kids very early on, so by the time they get to the x-box stage natural curiosity can be all but extinguished in the school environment.

    Oh, and I hesitate to be pedantic, but can't resist. The possessive of 'it' doesn't have an apostrophe. Can't imagine how I picked that up having attended a child-centred primary in the 60s.

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    6 March, 2010


  • The guess the regime's latest thinking is all I seem to be hearing in the staff meetings these days.
    The head told us that we have to jump through the hoops for Osfted. She issues new school policies every week, all of which have an end of creating a show of evidence and data. APPing sample children (for the uninititiated this consists of highlighting of bits of paper to tell us what we already knew the children know), 'qualitative marking for improvement' which the kids can't read and don't have time to respond to, headteacher drop-ins to check that children are active and are showing signs of progression in ANY 20 minute chunk of a lesson, because you never know which part they are going to watch and that active starter could be wasted so make an active finishing activity too! All of which is hugely stressful, some of which is useful, but most of which is no use the children what so ever!
    Come on Osfted lets get it over with so I can stop working 12 hour days 7 days a week!

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    7 March, 2010


  • When was improving anything achieved by just "raising the bar" There comes a time when you raise the bar until no one can jump over it and then who is really failing children. The ones who are setting unachievable standards - yes this is the penny pinching politicians like Mrs Gilbert and her expense fiddling husband, they have a nerve asking us to raise our standards.
    And note the amount of applications of heads for retirement, posts already, they can't fill these posts to start with - do you think they ever communicate in Whitehall. I was at a meeting last week with a NGO (non governmental officer, accountable to no one, elected by no one, paid a lot) he said that non- accountability was not an option because the whole of education was a hot potato in political terms under any government, and the department would rather spend money there rather than on "kids"
    Disgraceful - vote these people out of office, although the opposition are no better, lets go for a "hung" administration

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    8 March, 2010


  • Thanks for all these changes, Ofsted, my hours of work has just jumped from 12 hours per day to 14 and counting. Torturous days and sleepless nights makes the teacher work like a horse, but it does matter, Ofsted is still not happy.

    The Solution:

    I think the gov needs to get these inspectors in schools to show how it is done before, they are qualified to make judgement in these millennium classrooms. We will all see how well they would cope in these 21st centuary learning areas. Does it appear sometimes that inspectors are using dated experience to make judgements about the classrooms of today?

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    9 March, 2010


  • I am a governor in a school which is situated in a local authority ward that has been judged as being in the bottom one percent of social deprivation within England. The school has over 75% EAL children. Ofsted have told us that we are to be served with a notice to improve due to standards of attainment not being good enough and attendance being down on our usual ‘average’ result.

    The fact that the majority of children don’t speak much English when they come into school at reception seems to carry no weight whatsoever with this framework. By the time our children enter year one they are at least 3 terms behind where they are supposed to be. To get them up to the ‘national average’ standard of attainment by year 6 is totally unrealistic but that seems to be what we have to do.

    Attendance slipped last year to 91% due partly to the withdrawal of the Education welfare officers by Lancashire County Council and partly due to an unusually high incidence of children taking extended holiday’s in Pakistan. This year we are up to 93% however if the two religious festivals for Eid are to be taken out of the equation the figure is 95%. Ofsted of course won’t allow this adjustment of the figures, a fact that in my view amounts to religious discrimination. What do the government want us to do? Are we to tell all our Asian heritage children that they must become Christians and not celebrate their native culture? I think not.

    This new Ofsted framework is a blatant attack on the under privileged and needs to be fought tooth and nail until it has been consigned to the scrap heap where it belongs.

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    11 March, 2010


  • Here here! I think the new inspection framework is far more harmful and destructive than SATS and I think more attention should be paid to it by unions and professional bodies.

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    11 March, 2010


  • I agree why are schools and teachers not trusted ever by this Government? This is going to lead to exclusions going up particularly for disalutioned pupils and those who are "not academic" and dont have a hope of getting top results. Do we want inclusion to mean every pupil or just those who are going to get the necessary grades to raise the results every year? Just so Ofsted cant downgrade every school in the country.

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    12 March, 2010

    Lesley North

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