Focus on 30% GCSE benchmark will frustrate those schools with challenging intakes
Schools could be barred from being graded as "good" purely because of their raw exam results, under plans unveiled by Ofsted.
Minimum standards will be set at key stage 2 and GCSE that schools will have to meet if they are to be judged higher than satisfactory.
Christine Gilbert, the chief inspector, this week set out wide-ranging proposals to change inspections from September 2009 - she claimed that school standards in England had "stalled". Her plans include trialling inspections without notice and, in extreme cases, letting parents trigger inspections.
Ms Gilbert said weaker schools would be subjected to more inspections in a bid to improve results, There will also be renewed pressure on lower- performing schools to hit exam targets to ensure they secure a good overall grade.
The four grades - outstanding, good, satisfactory and inadequate - are to be redefined to help eliminate confusion about their meaning. Minimum exam benchmarks could be introduced, even though Ofsted acknowledged that schools had complained about inspectors' excessive reliance on contextual value-added scores.
"Exam results are very important and they do give you a picture of particular schools," said Ms Gilbert. "We are considering being much more explicit - that 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."
Ms Gilbert's comments chime with those made by the Government, which has threatened schools with being taken over or closed unless at least 30 per cent of pupils achieve five good GCSEs by 2010.
However, the move will frustrate schools with challenging intakes. The TES has used Ofsted reports to show that many schools labelled as "failing" by ministers on their results have been rated outstanding or excellent by inspectors who have seen the work they do in context.
John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "Oftsted judgements on schools in challenging areas are already harsher than those with more favourable intakes. Added focus on raw results will make the playing field even less level. That's very worrying."
The Ofsted consultation contradicts ministers' claims that results are continuing to rise. Ms Gilbert said: "If education in England is going to compare favourably with the best in the world, standards need to improve. In fact, they have stalled." There are encouraging signs, but there is still a long way to go to ensure satisfactory schools improve instead of falling back and becoming inadequate.
There would be a renewed focus on teaching and learning to improve results for low-achieving and gifted and talented pupils. She said that 20 per cent of children who moved from primary to secondary school were not functional in numeracy and literacy.
Teachers are being invited to give their feedback on the proposals over the next three months.
Christine Blower, acting general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said the "punitive" inspection system would lead staff to quit. "Parents do not want to be involved in triggering early inspections," she said. "The low level of complaints indicates that parents are supportive of schools."
THE MAIN PROPOSALS
- Inspections without warning.
- Meaning of overall school grades to be redefined, with possible minimum raw-score benchmarks.
- More weight given to views of parents and pupils about when inspections are needed.
- Schools judged as good or outstanding to receive a full inspection once every six years, instead of three. Weaker schools to be judged more frequently.
- School leaders to become more involved in the inspection by shadowing inspectors.
- Inspections of federations and school partnerships to be co-ordinated.