Positive start for Ofsted's new age

7th October 2005 at 01:00
Schools are doing well under the lighter touch regime. Jon Slater reports.

Almost two-thirds of the first schools inspected using the new framework introduced this term have been rated as good or better by Ofsted.

Only one of the 86 schools inspected during the first week was placed in special measures, according to figures published by the schools watchdog. A further six were judged to be inadequate and told to improve.

It is still early days for the new arrangement, but the figures will help to alleviate schools' fears that the new inspection regime would lead to a big increase in the number of schools judged to be failing.

David Bell, the chief inspector, has warned that the new framework would lead to a further toughening of standards and that schools judged to be good under the old system might be only satisfactory under the new one.

Separate Ofsted figures published this week show that 38 schools were placed in special measures last term, up from 23 in the spring term.

The total number of schools judged to be failing at the end of the summer was 242 - down from 285 at the end of March. This reduction was due to a sharp increase in the number of schools removed from special measures. Nine failing schools were closed during that period.

The new light-touch system puts much greater emphasis on self-evaluation, and schools receive only two days' notice of a visit by inspectors. Schools are graded on a four-point scale - from outstanding (1) to inadequate (4).

Those judged to be inadequate are either placed in special measures or given a notice to improve.

Mr Bell said: "The results from the first week of our new-style inspections show a pleasing picture, with 64 per cent of schools being graded good or better, and 92 per cent providing a level of education that is at least satisfactory.

"But we must view these grades with caution because the number of schools inspected in the first week represents a very small proportion of the 25,000 schools that Ofsted will be inspecting over the coming three years.

I will be revealing more comprehensive results in the new year."

The schools inspected have not yet had their reports published, so cannot be named.

A TES survey of more than 50 schools which have taken part in pilots in the past two years revealed a broadly positive view of the new arrangements, but some expressed concern that inspectors could not glean enough to form an accurate picture of schools.

George Potrykus-Lupton, head of Roland primary, east London, said: "Because of the time constraint of a one-day inspection, staff and inspectors were unable to initiate dialogue, which did not allow us to give evidence that disagreed with their judgement."

Brian Fox, head of Roding primary in Barking and Dagenham, east London, described his school's pilot inspection as "the most professionally challenging I have had".

* Young people in West Sussex this week became the first to receive their own Ofsted report on children's services in the area.

Inspectors found that education and other children's services in the area are generally good, but said mental health services should be improved and more social workers are needed.

* jon.slater@tes.co.uk

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