Ofsted wants more ambition from 'coasting schools'

Inspections Ofsted inspectors say there are too many schools stuck on "satisfactory" grades and failing to rise

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There are too many lacklustre schools in England which are not pushing children to reach their potential, says the annual report from Ofsted.

The education watchdog's report says too many schools are failing to rise above the "satisfactory" grade.

There are also concerns about teaching quality, which was no better than satisfactory in 41% of schools.

Ofsted's chief inspector Miriam Rosen said it was of "great concern" that so many schools remained at this grade.

"Ensuring that there is real improvement must be a matter of urgency for these organisations," she said.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: "There are still far too many underperforming schools making painfully slow improvements.

"It is worrying that Ofsted finds that 800 schools are stuck steadfastly at a satisfactory rating in inspection after inspection."

Deprived areas

But head teachers cautioned that Ofsted should remain independent, rather than reflecting government priorities.

Brian Lightman, leader of the ASCL head teachers' union, also rejected the criticisms of schools in poorer areas.

"I take issue with the implication that pupils in schools serving deprived areas are being let down. Sweeping generalities like this are unhelpful and untrue," he said.

The report warned that schools serving the most deprived pupils were disproportionately likely to be underperforming.

OFSTED ANNUAL REPORT 2011

  • A snapshot of schools shows 20% outstanding, 50% good, 28% satisfactory, 2% inadequate
  • In schools serving the most deprived areas, 27% were inadequate
  • Among 75 academies, 40 were outstanding or good, 30 satisfactory, 5 were inadequate

The fifth of schools in the poorest areas were four times as likely to have been assessed as "inadequate" by inspectors, compared with schools in wealthier areas.

However the report also highlighted that 85 schools in the most deprived areas had received an "outstanding" grade.

The education watchdog's report is the latest warning about the number of "coasting" schools, often in prosperous areas, where schools might achieve respectable results, but fail to stretch pupils.

The report says that 800 schools - 14% - have been judged as "satisfactory" in two successive inspections.

It suggests that when schools are judged as inadequate, it can often trigger rapid improvement, while satisfactory schools might stay at this level, lacking the ambition to rise higher.

"It's a real concern that some schools with very able intakes are merely coasting instead of making sure students achieve their full potential," said the schools minister.

This "satisfactory" grade is above the point at which intervention is required, but below the higher grades of "good" and "outstanding".

Ofsted says that 20% of schools are outstanding, 50% are good, 28% are satisfactory and 2% are inadequate.

'Not good quality'

The report raises concerns about the variability of teaching standards.

"Good teaching is absolutely essential to the provision of a good education and quite simply too much of what our inspectors saw this year was not good quality," said Ms Rosen.

The reports says where teaching is no better than satisfactory, activities are insufficiently challenging and not well matched to the needs of pupils.

Inspectors found schools where there was "over-use of worksheets and an over-reliance on a narrow range of textbooks".

Teaching was not rated as outstanding in any college inspected this year - and in more than two in five schools it was no better than satisfactory.

In future years, under changes in the inspection process, outstanding schools will no longer receive routine inspections - and more attention will be focused on schools rated as satisfactory and inadequate.

However this year's report found that 40% of the schools inspected which had previously been rated as outstanding had declined.

Vulnerable children

Reflecting the watchdog's responsibility for inspecting children's social care services, the annual report raises concerns about the most vulnerable children.

It says nearly one in five local authorities (nine out of 47) inspected this year were inadequate, "meaning children were at risk".

None were considered to be outstanding.

Ms Rosen said: "It is particularly worrying to reflect on the numbers of local authorities that are providing inadequate safeguarding services for children.

"Given that they are providing care for the most vulnerable children of all, this is not good enough."

The new chief inspector for Ofsted - Sir Michael Wilshaw - will take up his post in January. Sir Michael has been head of Mossbourne Academy in east London.

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