Why penalise teachers who work in poor areas, Ofsted?

3rd July 2009 at 01:00

In last week's edition, we were reminded of the strong correlation between social class and educational outcomes. The Sutton Trust highlighted the need for effective teaching to be targeted in such a way as to reduce the educational inequalities that widen with age, while Professor Smith at Exeter University acknowledged that social mobility has, if anything, narrowed in the UK in the past 30 years ("It's time to get moving on social immobility", June 29).

Accepting the findings of the recent study that school leadership is second only to teaching as an influence on students' learning, one would assume that any sane policy response would involve doing everything possible to encourage the most able leaders and teachers to work in those disadvantaged communities where children would most benefit from their input.

Instead, the same edition set out the detail of Ofsted's new inspection regime where crude and arbitrary formulae for student attainment are most likely to deny good or better grades to such schools, even where it is clear that student progress is outstanding. This is especially galling for those in selective areas, where the middle classes continue to buy exclusivity via the medium of private tuition, thereby further ensuring an uneven playing field.

Back in the heady days of 1997 there was a sense of optimism among those of us who continued to believe - and still do - in the capacity of comprehensive state education to contribute to a more egalitarian society. Even in the high-stakes accountability regime in which we operate, who would have foreseen the current position?

To paraphrase Neil Kinnock, it appears likely that the current administration will end in the grotesque scenario of a Labour government - a Labour government - sending its officials scurrying round the country effectively handing out redundancy notices to its own headteachers.

The headteachers' failing?

Being foolish enough to have committed themselves to serving an insufficiently privileged area.

Tom Megahy, Executive principal, Trent Valley Academy, Gainsborough, Lincolnshire.

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