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Inspectors to drop in once a year

Chief inspector tightens up on schools which are failing to tackle weaknesses. Jon Slater and Joseph Lee report

More than 1,000 schools judged to be making "insufficient progress" will face annual visits by inspectors until they improve, the chief inspector said this week.

In his third annual report, David Bell said one in 10 schools does enough to pass inspections but is not making enough effort to tackle weaknesses.

His call came as his annual report revealed a 30 per cent rise in the number of schools condemned as failing and a drop in teaching standards in secondaries. At one in 11, unsatisfactory secondary school lessons are at their highest level since Labour came to power.

Mr Bell said that variations in school and college performance and the impact of social class are acting as a break on educational achievement.

Progress in reducing the gap between schools attended by well-off pupils and those educating children from disadvantaged backgrounds has also been slow.

Ministers need to encourage a "sea change" in the country's attitude to vocational education by embracing the 14-19 reforms put forward by former chief inspector Mike Tomlinson, Mr Bell said.

Schools which make insufficient progress between inspections will be visited again within 12 months even if they are not judged to be causing concern.

Mr Bell said schools should also have to put together action plans, for approval by their local authority, showing how they intend to improve.

The report also raised concern about the state of discipline in schools in the week that Labour and the Conservatives promised to crack down on bad behaviour if they win the next election.

The proportion of secondary schools in which behaviour is unsatisfactory is one in 10 and shows no sign of reducing, although serious incidents remain rare and most problems involve low level disruption.

Despite these concerns Mr Bell said that inspectors' higher expectations were the main cause of the increased number of schools judged to be failing.

"School inspections are more rigorous," he said. "As the performance of schools has improved over the years it is only right that we should have higher expectations. Not to do so would be to condemn youngsters to a standard of education that might have been acceptable 10 years ago but is clearly no longer so."

The report singled out 393 schools for praise for outstanding achievement.

The Downs school in Compton, Berkshire, is one of seven which has been named for the third time.

Graham Taylor, headteacher, said his school was unremarkable when compared with "whizz-bang ideas" he hears from other heads at conferences.

"There's no magic ingredient. We have high-achieving pupils, who are motivated, with parents interested in their education and who support the school on the whole," he said.

He attributes the success simply to recruiting good teachers. Pupils are also involved in recruitment, putting candidates through a mock lesson.

Recent applicants for the deputy headship also faced interviews with the school council.

News 16

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