Ofsted chief voices fears for brightest pupils

Boy sitting A level Sir Michael urged comprehensive schools to learn from the independent and selective sectors

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England's chief inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has ordered a "landmark report" into how state schools teach the most able students.

Ofsted's head warned some pupils, who got top marks at primary school, were not doing as well at secondary school.

Such students ought to be pushed, as they would be at independent or grammar schools, he told the Sunday Telegraph..

The news comes as league tables reveal hundreds of schools failed to produce pupils suitable for elite universities.

The tables, released on Thursday, showed almost a quarter of England's sixth forms and colleges had no pupils with the top A-level grades sought by leading institutions.


Setting out a "rapid response" to the data, Sir Michael promised the watchdog's survey would investigate fears that some of the brightest secondary school pupils are being let down by teachers who fail to stretch them to get the best exam results.

Many are left to coast in mixed ability classes, or entered too early for GCSE exams in order to gain the minimum C grades required for league tables, he warned.

He also said the report - to be published in the spring - would address the "nonsense" that a tiny number of independent schools were sending more youngsters to Oxford and Cambridge than thousands of state secondary schools.

England's comprehensive schools would have to learn lessons from the independent and selective sectors, he said.

The new report is due to be carried out over the coming months by Ofsted inspectors visiting a sample of more than 50 secondary schools, looking at statistics on gifted and talented provision and pupil progression, according to Sir Michael.

"I am passionate about this, it will be a landmark report.

"I am as concerned as the next person on the issue of social mobility. Are our children and our children from the poorest backgrounds who are naturally bright doing as well as they should?"

Leading universities have been urged in recent years to do more to recruit bright students from a wider set of backgrounds.

But data released this week shows that many schools are not producing students of a high enough calibre to automatically get places at such universities.

League tables - drawn from the latest official government figures on pupils' academic achievement - have shown some 594 (23.4%) of the 2,540 schools teaching A-levels had no pupils with the two As and a B in the subjects recommended for the best degree courses.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 699.

    If students really wanted to well, they would work hard. If parents really wanted their kids to go independent or grammar schools, they would push them to go there. I don't understand why in our country we have to have try and make the lazy ones and the ones who actually try have the same chances. Its utter madness.

  • rate this

    Comment number 388.

    My daughters education is suffering and she is at one of the best state schools in our area.
    The problem is mixed abilities and the head's inability to expel disruptive pupils.One "Boy" disrupts every class he is in and still he is allowed to stay at school when he should be kicked out for the good of the others who wants to learn.
    I pity the teachers who have to suffer idiots like him every day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    In my primary school I was told that I must fit in with the community & not to complain about naughty boys running about who could not sit down, & that I was not to boast that I could read & write whilst many others did not know what a book was. This was because I upset others by getting my work right. Consequently I was put on a table with two particularly dim naughty boys & to teach me a lesson?

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    "pupils who got top marks at primary school" - Its well known that Primarys often inflate pupils grades to meet their targets! I'm a secondary English teacher and the difference in their supposed KS2 grades and what they can actually achieve is often shocking. It then seems like the kid isnt achieving their potential under us, when actually we're playing catchup to an unrealistic target.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    This has been a problem for years, I recall being viewed as a nuisance for finishing class work & homework half way through the lesson at comp school. I was bored, frustrated and rebellious & ended up getting through 3 schools before leaving with no qualifications. I guess you could say that was a state education fail. I still ended up with a PhD from Cambridge but no thanks to the state system.


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