Ofsted: 5 problems facing 'stuck' schools

Schools that have not been judged 'good' in a decade can see themselves as a 'dumping ground' for difficult pupils

John Roberts

Ofsted has produced a new report looking at problems facing stuck schools.

Ofsted has produced a report exploring why more than 400 "stuck" schools have not been rated as good by the inspectorate for more than a decade.

It has identified 415 schools that it says are stuck in a cycle of low performance, and which need better and more tailored support if they are to improve.

Ofsted defines a school as being "stuck" if it has not been judged good or better since 2006 and has been through four full inspections during that time.

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Today's report examines the challenges these schools face and also looks at how some schools have become “unstuck” – achieving two good Ofsted judgements in a row, having previously been in a cycle of low performance.

Here are five main problems facing stuck schools, according to Ofsted.

1. Isolated location, leading to recruitment problems

Some staff at stuck schools identify their location as being a problem. The report says these schools are not located in “a desirable place to live in, or commute to, for teachers".

These schools feel their communities are not "sufficiently economically vibrant" to attract good teachers. They also say that the wider cultural, social and economic opportunities available in bigger towns and cities are draining them of talent.

The Ofsted report notes that some stuck schools recruit from Teach First, but struggle to retain these staff.

2. Serving communities with social problems and a lack of parental support

The inspectorate says that, in the stuck and unstuck schools it spoke to, there were issues with parents and the wider community that affected attendance, behaviour and attitudes.

Many schools report low levels of literacy and employment among parents. In some schools, children are reportedly sent to school hungry and allowed to stay up late accessing social media or inappropriate material on the internet.

One school said that some children try to get excluded so that they can return home because they are concerned their parents are victims of domestic abuse. Drug and alcohol abuse within the school community was also reported as being commonplace.

3. Being a ‘dumping ground’ for unwanted pupils

One in four of the schools Ofsted spoke to described themselves as a "dumping ground" when referring to the children they had been given.

Two school leaders said: “We get all the mid-year transfers and I've yet to see one where actually there aren’t serious concerns [or] issues either with safeguarding or behaviour…So we very much feel like we're a dumping ground."

They added: “That's soured the relationship between us and the local authority because we were expecting a bit of respite. Like, look, we're struggling, we don't have full [numbers of] teachers, we don't have capacity, we're in special measures, give us a bit of a break. But [the school was being sent pupils] every other week.”

4. High pupil churn

Ofsted’s report also says that all the schools it visited highlighted the issue of a lack of stability in pupil numbers and population.

In most cases, schools reported that the number of pupils on roll fell as they were put into special measures, but rose when they were handed a "requires improvement" rating. This can have a destabilising effect on funding, particularly for small schools.

The report also highlights how schools in deprived areas can experience a “high churn of pupils” with people on housing benefit moving around private rented accommodation.

5. Resistance to change and 'antagonistic union voice'

Ofsted says that some stuck schools are change-fatigued. It highlights the problem of a lack of stable leadership and inexperienced workforces in chaotic schools.

One school reportedly had 14 headteachers in the space of 10 years.

However, Ofsted also warns that some stuck schools and have an embedded culture that is resistant to change.

It says that such schools often have a settled leadership team, a longstanding teacher workforce and an "antagonistic union voice”.

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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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