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Revised regime no bar to success in deprived areas, says Ofsted

Schools serving areas of high deprivation have nearly the same chance as any other school of receiving an "outstanding" rating under Ofsted's revised inspection framework, new figures suggest.

As expected, the watchdog's new-style inspections have proved tougher for all schools.

Figures for the first two terms of the new regime, released this week, show it has reduced the proportion of schools given "outstanding" verdicts from 19 per cent to 11 per cent, with a doubling in the proportion judged "inadequate".

Heads' leaders also predicted it would be particularly hard on schools serving deprived areas because of a greater emphasis placed on "raw" exam results, unadjusted for pupil background.

But chief inspector Christine Gilbert revealed they had done better than many expected. She said: "It is particularly pleasing to see that 10 per cent of schools considered to be serving areas of high deprivation have been graded outstanding in the last two terms, almost matching the overall national figure for schools."

However, 12 per cent of schools serving highly deprived areas have been judged "inadequate" since September, compared with 9 per cent of all schools in the last two terms and 4 per cent of all schools in 200809 under the old inspection regime.

Fears about the framework stemmed from Ofsted's official guidance to inspectors which, if followed, meant that schools with raw exam results judged as "low" would be unable to achieve an overall outstanding or good grade, except in "the most exceptional circumstances".

This week, Ofsted said its analysis of the new inspections showed that the progress made by pupils was the "driving factor" in determining school effectiveness, with a "lesser link" to exam results.

The judgment given on raw exam results or "attainment" only correlated with a school's overall grade in 56 per cent of the new-style inspections.

The watchdog also noted that a quarter of schools judged to be "outstanding" and half rated "good" had average or below average attainment.

Sue Gregory, Ofsted education divisional manager, said: "The overriding guidance is for inspectors to exercise their professional judgment and take into account the individual circumstances of a school."

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "Let's look at this over time. There is no question that the emphasis on attainment makes it harder for these schools to get an outstanding grade. But if some of them have achieved it, then good for them."

10% - Proportion of schools considered to be serving deprived areas judged 'outstanding' in the last two terms.

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