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'Failing' schools must improve more quickly

Heads face extra pressure as Ofsted accelerates the inspection process

Heads face extra pressure as Ofsted accelerates the inspection process

Ofsted, England's education inspectorate, is trialling an approach that could make the process of being in special measures, or having a notice to improve, even more demanding.

From January, primaries and secondaries will be expected to throw off their inadequate rating more quickly - and they will have to make improvements more rapidly.

Schools with a notice to improve will be inspected three months after being put in this category and will be re-inspected within a further six months. If the school does not improve, it will be placed in special measures. Currently, schools receive a monitoring inspection six to eight months after their previous full inspection and are re-inspected after 12 to 16 months. For those placed in special measures, the process will be similarly accelerated.

The aim is for this strategy to bring schools out of a "category" earlier, but school leaders have warned that the reforms could also lead to extra demands being made of them.

Ofsted informed schools earlier this year that the pace of improvement is often "too slow" and the reforms will "increase expectations of the speed of recovery for schools requiring special measures".

The proposals, which can be found in the new inspection framework, will also result in local authorities being expected to take "more vigorous action" if a school is "improving only slowly".

"A substantial number of schools are in special measures for up to two years or more before they are removed," the document warns. "In some schools, the pace of improvement is too slow and this is not acceptable for the pupils who attend such schools."

Jan Webber, an inspection specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders, said the changes could put more pressure on headteachers.

"If the first monitoring visit is a chance for the inspector and headteacher to come up with a joint plan, that will be helpful. If the inspector expects to see lots of improvement, that may be more difficult for the school," she said.

"Under the old framework, schools had time to take action before the first monitoring visit and this meant they could demonstrate they had made progress."

HOW THEY FARE

All schools, England

September 2010-April 2011

Outstanding - 10%

Good - 44%

Satisfactory - 39%

Inadequate - 6%.

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