Schools with disadvantaged intakes less likely to be rated ‘outstanding’

Schools with more disadvantaged intakes are less likely to be awarded Ofsted’s top rating, new research shows, as a charity finds that pupils in areas of low social mobility make far less progress than their peers nationally

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There is a “systematic negative correlation" between schools with more disadvantaged intakes and positive Ofsted judgements, a leading thinktank has said.

The Education Policy Institute found that secondary schools with the lowest number of pupils eligible for free schools meals are over three times as likely to be rated “outstanding” as schools with the highest numbers receiving free meals.

At the other end of the scale, fifteen per cent of secondary schools with the highest numbers of pupils on free school meals are rated inadequate, compared to only one per cent of schools with the fewest pupils eligible for free meals. 

The trend is also apparent for primary schools. For those with the highest numbers of pupils on free school meals just 11 per cent are rated outstanding, whereas for those with the lowest proportion on free meals, 25 per cent have this rating.

The research found that the least deprived schools were also more likely to improve their Ofsted rating and less likely to have it downgraded.

The EPI’s research comes on the same day as a report from the new education charity, Ambition School Leadership - a merger of Future Leaders and Teaching Leaders. It finds that disadvantaged children in areas of low social mobility made 20.1 months less progress than their wealthier peers last year.

According to the EPI’s analysis, the distribution of outstanding ratings across schools with high and low levels of disadvantage is not what would be expected based purely on analysis of value added progress scores.

If schools were rated using value added only, 22 per cent of primary schools with the highest number of pupils on free school meals would be rated outstanding, compared with just 11 per cent now.

Likewise for schools with the most advantaged intakes, the percentage of outstanding ratings would fall from 25 per cent in primary and junior schools to 13 per cent if the ratings were just calculated on value added scores.

The EPI also suggested that Ofsted may not be stepping in quickly enough to inspect schools which have experienced a significant deterioration in their academic performance.

According to their research, “good” or outstanding schools whose performance had declined substantially since their last inspection have not been inspected any earlier than average before being re-inspected.

Once they have been re-inspected, the majority of such schools have then gone on to receive the same or higher rating.

Forty seven per cent of primaries and 33 per cent of secondaries which had experienced a deterioration in their performance actually improved their Ofsted rating upon re-inspection.

The research from Ambition School Leadership compared the performance of children in the government’s “opportunity areas” – where social mobility is at its lowest – to other youngsters across England.

It found that in 2015,  persistently disadvantaged youngsters in these six areas - secondary children who are eligible for free school meals for 80 per cent of the time - were around 20.1 months behind at GCSE level compared to non-disadvantaged children across England.

And wealthier pupils (those not on school meals) in these areas made around 4.7 months less progress compared to other youngsters nationally.

Responding to the EPI report, an Ofsted spokeswoman said there were many points of detail in the report which the regulator would dispute.

“All children deserve access to the highest standards of education,” she said.

“We should never make excuses for schools that are underperforming, even in challenging circumstances.”


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