Ofsted released its fourth annual report today. Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has used the document to give his verdict on the country’s school system and which area is most in need of improvement. Here are the six key points:
- The North/South divide
The report states the England is a “divided nation” after the age of 11. This is owing to the disparity in the performance of secondary schools in the South of the country, compared with those in the Midlands and the North. According to the report, 79 per cent of secondaries in the South are rated good or better by Ofsted. In the Midlands and the North just 68 per cent are.
- Primaries are not the problem
The report states that while the North and Midlands suffer from lower rates of employment and lower salaries. However, similar primary standards throughout the country suggest that as the differences emerge as pupils progress through the system, the problem may about more than economic disadvantage. In the South, 85 per cent of primary schools were judged good or better, compared with 84 per cent in the rest of the country.
- Academies are not the only solution
While Sir Michael supports academies and their role in improving the school system, the chief inspector states that converting schools into academies “can only do so much”. The majority of converter academies have maintained standards, but the report states that becoming a converter academy “does not insulate you from decline”. It notes that 99 converter academies dropped from being good or outstanding to less than good last year.
- Teacher shortages are beginning to bite
There are not enough high-quality teachers entering the school system, the document says, but certain pockets of the country are finding it far harder to recruit than others. Half of school leaders said they were struggling to recruit in affluent areas, whereas more than three-quarters said as much in more deprived regions. A two-tier school system is emerging in terms of recruitment. The overriding message from heads, the report adds, is that teacher recruitment is a “very real problem”.
- Leadership is a concern
A lack of quality leaders coming into the system is a problem, the report states. While smaller programmes, such as Future Leaders and Talented Leaders are welcome, action needs to be taken at a “national scale”. Sir Michael says that such is his level of concern about where the next generation of school leaders will come from that he has commissioned a survey to look at the issue in more depth.
- Poor white pupils still perform worst
White British pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds remain the lowest-performing group of students at GCSE. Poor white boys perform particularly badly, with less than a quarter gaining five good GCSEs including English and maths. The proportion of white working-class children in receipt of free school meals reaching the government’s GCSE benchmark was the same as the proportion of un-statemented pupils with special educational needs, the report shows.