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'Satisfactory' is so unsatisfactory

Your reporting of the chief inspector's comments ("Ofsted ratings to be based on exam results", TES, May 23) highlights the nonsense of the four-point grading system used to label schools

Your reporting of the chief inspector's comments ("Ofsted ratings to be based on exam results", TES, May 23) highlights the nonsense of the four-point grading system used to label schools

Your reporting of the chief inspector's comments ("Ofsted ratings to be based on exam results", TES, May 23) highlights the nonsense of the four-point grading system used to label schools. You quote Christine Gilbert, Ofsted chief, as saying: "if a school hasn't got 30 per cent of pupils getting five A* to C grades, then you can't be better than satisfactory".

The poet T.S. Eliot pictured the Magi, on their way to see the Christ child, assessing their inn in similar terms: "It was, you may say, satisfactory." One can imagine the derogatory tone with which the word "satisfactory" might have been uttered, though doubtless the Magi had somewhere to sleep that was dry and warm.

Perhaps Ms Gilbert is descended from one of the Magi and does not realise that if a school is "satisfactory", it does the job required of it, and its staff can carry on with a clear conscience.

The main concern, however, must be that exam results are not the only indicator of pupils having received a successful education. An interest in learning, an ability to get on with people, and a commitment to making a positive contribution to society, also suggest that a pupil has been well nurtured by herhis school.

It sounds somewhat odd to hear so much concern with exam results when there are young people sticking knives into one another and forming intimidating gangs on street corners.

Many schools that do not have superlative exam results turn out agreeable young adults. I recall being treated in hospital by a sister in charge of a casualty department whom I recognised as one of my former, academically "failed", pupils. As a young adult, she had attained a good nursing degree and a new career.

Some children leave school with insufficient knowledge to pass school exams, but sufficient latent motivation and knowledge of how to learn that they get their qualifications later in life. Perhaps Ofsted would do well to consider developing ways of commenting constructively on, and giving schools equal credit for, their contribution to pupils' development as interesting and interested people, and their exam results.

Dr Tony Wenman, Retired local authority and Ofsted inspector.

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