Around 130 intractable schools in England have not been rated "good" at any point over the last decade, the Ofsted chief inspector revealed today.
Launching her first annual report in the role, Amanda Spielman spoke about a small proportion of schools that have been underperforming for up to a decade.
And she highlighted the fact that the best school leaders and strongest academy trusts are spread too thinly within the school system, meaning that they cannot provide the support needed to help struggling schools improve.
Speaking in Westminster this morning, Ms Spielman said that these 130 schools shared some similar characteristics, including unstable leadership, high staff turnover and difficulty recruiting teachers. Many have high proportions of pupils from deprived areas, and higher than average proportions of pupils with special educational needs and disabilities.
'Culture of disadvantage oneupmanship'
Ms Spielman said: “There is no doubt that the leadership challenge facing some schools is great. But progress is possible, and we should all be wary of using the make-up of a school community as an excuse for underperformance.”
These schools have all received considerable attention and investment from external agencies, Ms Spielman added. But this has had little effect.
By contrast, other schools in similar circumstances have improved and are now achieving well.
“I do find myself frustrated with the culture of disadvantage one-upmanship that has emerged in some places,” she said. “Fixating on all the things holding schools back can distract us all from working on the things that take them forward.
“Instead, what is needed is greater support and leadership from within the system. That means making sure the system has the capacity to provide this support.”
Quality improving overall
Ms Spielman took over the role of Ofsted chief inspector from Sir Michael Wilshaw in January this year. This week, a survey of civil servants revealed that the watchdog’s leadership approval ratings have risen dramatically since then.
In her annual report, published today, Ms Spielman also pointed out that Reception year does not always adequately prepare children for Year 1. Often, she said, those schools that best prepare children for Year 1 tend to go beyond the early years foundation stage framework’s limits. These schools often place an emphasis on reading and maths.
The report also highlighted the increasing number of illegal schools, which are teaching religious conservatism in place of mutual tolerance and respect.
And, as Tes reported earlier this week, it will draw attention to the fact that some pupils with special educational needs and disabilities are unofficially excluded, because school leaders say that they cannot meet their needs.
Nonetheless, the report will point out that the overall quality of education in England today is improving. The report shows that:
- 94 per cent of early years providers are now rated "good" or "outstanding".
- 90 per cent of primary schools are rated "good" or "outstanding".
- 79 per cent of secondary schools are rated "good" or "outstanding".
- 80 per cent of further education and skills providers are "good" or "outstanding".
Over the next year, Ofsted will work on developing its new education framework for 2019, with a particular focus on the curriculum.