Ofsted 'requires improvement' grade to replace floor and coasting standards

DfE plans to implement key recommendation of headteachers' commission on school accountability

coasting, floor standard, hinds, dfe, accountability, recruitment, retention, ofsted, requires improvement, ri, naht

The DfE is planning to replace school floor and coasting standards with Ofsted’s "requires improvement" judgement.

The department is launching a consultation on the proposal as part of its new strategy to tackle the teacher recruitment and retention crisis.

The decision to make a "requires improvement" verdict the sole trigger for support for schools reflects a key demand of the NAHT headteacher union’s commission on school accountability, which reported last September.

The floor and coasting standards are data thresholds based on primary schools’ key stage 2 Sats, and secondary schools’ GCSEs results.

They were introduced to identify schools that were underperforming. Those that failed to meet them became eligible for formal government intervention, including forced academisation.

However, the measures have been criticised for contributing to data-related workload for teachers, and driving perverse behaviour in schools in order to exceed the threshold.

The fact there are two different data measures, as well as the Ofsted inspection regime, was also criticised for complicating the school accountability regime.

Today’s teacher retention and recruitment strategy pledges to “radically simplify the system”.

It says: "We are launching a consultation on an Ofsted ‘requires improvement’ judgement becoming the sole trigger for a concrete and straightforward offer of support from September 2019 – replacing the floor and coasting standards."

It also reiterates that formal intervention, including forced academisation, will now “only ever result from an Ofsted 'inadequate’ judgement”.

The proposals go further than last year’s announcement by education secretary Damian Hinds that the coasting and floor measures would be replaced with “a single, transparent data standard”.

Last September, NAHT deputy general secretary Nick Brook said that by using Ofsted’s RI judgement as the trigger “government can be more certain that the offer of support to schools is being precisely targeted to those that genuinely need it, rather than simply being triggered by pupil results falling below a notional data threshold”.

Today’s strategy notes that the DfE last year clarified the roles of its regional schools commissioners (RSCs) and Ofsted in order to make the system simpler.

However, it acknowledges that “confusion in the accountability system has been most acute in relation to defining educational underperformance and identifying the schools in in need of additional support”.

It adds: “Performance data is of course important. But it can only ever be the starting point for understanding the needs of a school, informing a more rounded judgement.”

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