A multi academy trust leader is claiming that Ofsted’s new curriculum focused inspections are penalising schools working in deprived areas who need to focus more on ensuring pupils can read and write.
Michael Gosling says that a major improvement in the performance of Akroydon primary academy in Halifax in its most recent key stage two Sats was used “as a stick to beat it with” during its inspection.
Trinity Academy Trust, which runs seven Yorkshire schools, is now appealing against a requires improvement judgement in a report which criticises the school for failing to ensure pupils develop knowledge in subjects outside of English and maths.
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Mr Gosling, the trust’s chief executive said three senior members of staff – including the school’s head and the trust’s director of primary - have resigned as a direct result of the Ofsted inspection at Akroyden.
“I said to the inspection team that they have had made more impact on this school in two days than I have in two years and that is absolutely shameful,” he said.
The primary was visited last month under Ofsted's new school inspection framework which places a much greater emphasis on the curriculum that schools use. Union leaders claim the approach has left primaries with a "workload tsunami".
'The right thing to do'
Mr Gosling told Tes Ofsted inspectors had failed to take the context of his school into account and penalised it for the extra focus he says the pupils needed in reading, writing and maths to be able to leave primary school ready for secondary.
He said: “When we took it on, the culture of the school was wrong. To be honest we had to grasp a few nettles.
“The school is in an area that is really socio-economically deprived. The proportion of pupils who get free school meals is well above the national average. We looked it and thought three out of four of these kids who finish are not where they need to be when the start secondary.
“So we got stuck into the school. I put my best teacher into year six because morally that was the right thing to do.
“Results went from 25 per cent to 70 per cent [of KS2 pupils reaching the expected standard in reading, writing and maths] which is significantly above the national average.
"What is really pleasing is that even though we had done that with year six we felt very strongly that we had seen real improvements coming through across the rest of the school.
'Sats success a stick to beat us with'
“But what came back very early on in the inspection is that this improvement in key stage two – which we think is remarkable – was used as a stick to beat us with.”
He said the school was also proud that the level of pupils who were at a good level of development in reception year was at national average.
“That is every bit as remarkable as our key stage two results," said Mr Gosling. "But the inspectors said they wondered how many more pupils could have been at greater depth in reception if we had not focused as much on key stage two.
"And I said to them: ‘You have no idea how the vast majority of kids are when they join us. Those kids coming into that school come in way below national. Not just academically but socially, emotionally. You have the whole range of challenges there.'"
The Ofsted report says: “Teachers’ knowledge is not consistently secure in all the subjects they teach. In some year groups, teachers are not thorough in checking pupils’ understanding. Sometimes, pupils’ misconceptions go unnoticed.
"Leaders have not introduced an effective way of assessing pupils’ knowledge in subjects outside of English and mathematics. These factors mean that pupils do not develop knowledge as well as they should.”
Mr Gosling said inspectors raised concerns after taking pupils out of lessons and asking them what they had learned about the Vikings the year before.
He said Ofsted placed more emphasis on the questions they asked of the pupils who were pulled out of lessons than on the school’s key stage two results.
“This is a test of pupils and I think it’s a culturally biased test," he added. "Ofsted are placing much more emphasis on the answers pupils give them. I fear we are saying that if you have kids with supportive families who can talk eloquently about the Romans then that is a good school.
“But it could have nothing to do with what has gone in the classroom. You pull these kids out in a deprived part of Halifax like Boothtown with all these challenges and they are not able to articulate something as well.”
Mr Gosling said he believed the new inspection framework had penalised the school for being focused on securing the best possible outcomes for children in a poor area.
“What came back from the staff is that they felt like this framework was drawn up over a middle class dinner table and then rolled out to schools like ours where some people have no idea about the challenges," the Mat leader said
“The narrative that surrounded the framework before it launched was quite positive – we were thinking context is going to matter and that there was not one approved approach but it felt to us like they did not like our approach to school improvement.
“But if we did the same curriculum as the school down the road that won’t work for us because at the end of it we are going to be getting 25 per cent at Sats three out of four kids are not going to be ready for secondary school.”
An Ofsted spokesperson said: “We will consider any complaint very carefully. However, it’s important to say that our new inspections are not just about results, we’re looking at the overall quality of education.
"Far from penalising schools in deprived areas, this approach recognises strong approaches to the curriculum, good leadership and a real determination to do the best for all pupils, no matter what their background.
"If we hold schools in challenging circumstances to a lower standard, we would be accepting that pupils in tougher areas don’t deserve the best possible education. We won’t do that.”