Schools in England are improving at an “unprecedented rate”, says Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw.
The annual inspection figures published today show that 39% of schools had improved since their last inspection. Ofsted says this means 78% of schools are graded “outstanding” or “good”, compared with below 70% last year.
Sir Michael said that the inspection figures showed that “England’s school system is making some genuine and radical advances”. There had been two million children in the category now called “requires improvement” – and this has fallen by 600,000, he adds.
The figures published by Ofsted show the outcome of inspections in the last academic year.
These results, from 7,000 inspections, showed 39% of schools improved compared with their previous inspections – up from 32% in the year before. There were 41% of schools that stayed in the same category and 18% which performed less well than before. The 78% figure for good and outstanding schools is a cumulative figure based on inspection data from between 2005 and 2013.
Inspections are now focused on schools that need to improve, rather than a full range of schools. There are no longer routine inspections for outstanding schools.
These latest inspection figures follow the replacement of the “satisfactory” category with “requires improvement”, as part of a drive to make all schools good or better. Sir Michael said that this change was making sure that school leaders did “not put up with second best”.”Head teachers are using the ‘requires improvement’ judgement as a way of bringing about rapid improvement in their schools, especially in the quality of teaching,” said Sir Michael.
The Ofsted chief is speaking to head teachers in Manchester today. He will tell them: “Ofsted wants to back those leaders of our schools who want to do the right thing, even when their schools are not doing particularly well. I make no apology as chief inspector for raising the bar on school standards – no apology for replacing ‘satisfactory’ with ‘requires improvement’. This was not about injecting fear into the system, but signalling quite clearly that mediocrity, which the term ‘satisfactory’ denoted, is no longer acceptable.”
Brian Lightman, leader of the ASCL head teachers’ union, said the improvements reflected the achievements of school staff. “Improvement is brought about by teachers and school and college leaders looking self-critically at everything they do, constantly working to improve the quality of teaching and learning, and recruiting, training and rewarding the best staff. These inspection grades are a reflection of those efforts. The figures speak of an education system which is performing well, led by professionals who rise to ever more demanding challenges.”
Russell Hobby, leader of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “Schools don’t become good or outstanding overnight – securing and maintaining these ratings takes time and a sustained effort that has been going on for many years. The reality is there will be many more schools that have reached the standard for good which won’t have had this formally recognised by an inspection. We hope that schools will now be allowed to continue their improvements without excessive interference or damaging rhetoric.”
All this means only one thing according to Ofsted: progress. This progress provides justification for the government’s radical overhaul of the education system. But there is one thing plaguing my mind: are these ratings accurate, given the recent scandal over the misrating of a school in Hampshire in the last couple of months? Part of me wants to be positive about this, but part of me wants to say that this is an attempt to make people forget about that incident. I’m not hugely confident in Ofsted, but I’m pleased for the schools who are being recognised for making progress, but I agree with Mr Hobby, there are many many more good schools out there which haven’t been recognised as good by an inspection as of yet. I have everything crossed for the coming year 🙂