Ofsted plans to scrap 'satisfactory' label for schools


Sir Michael Wilshaw: "This is about sending the message out that we want all our schools to be good schools"

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Education watchdog Ofsted wants to toughen the language of inspections in England - changing the "satisfactory" rating to "requires improvement".

Ofsted's chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, wants to send a message that "satisfactory" is now unsatisfactory and that more schools should be pushing for the higher rating of "good".

This is the latest attempt to improve schools which are seen as "coasting".

The National Union of Teachers criticised such labels as "insulting".

But Prime Minister David Cameron said: "This is not some small bureaucratic change. It marks a massive shift in attitude. I don't want the word 'satisfactory' to exist in our education system. 'Just good enough' is frankly not good enough."

Sir Michael wants to see more schools progressing beyond the current category of "satisfactory", with the change in description intended to emphasise that these schools need to make improvements.

At present, inspectors can judge schools to be "inadequate", "satisfactory", "good" or "outstanding". Subject to consultation, the satisfactory grade will become "requires improvement".

'Coasting' schools

Schools will only be allowed to stay at the "requires improvement" level for three years - and there will be earlier re-inspections, after 12 to 18 months rather than three years, says Ofsted.

Start Quote

Of particular concern are the 3,000 schools educating a million children that have been 'satisfactory' two inspections in a row. This is not good enough”

End Quote Sir Michael Wilshaw Ofsted chief inspector

Sir Michael was speaking ahead of a Downing Street summit on so-called "coasting" schools - where performance, often in well-off areas, is not necessarily inadequate but has failed to impress.

"There are too many coasting schools not providing an acceptable standard of education," says Sir Michael.

"Of particular concern are the 3,000 schools educating a million children that have been 'satisfactory' two inspections in a row.

"This is not good enough. That is why I am determined to look again at the judgements we award, not only so we are accurately reporting what we see, but so that those schools that most need help are identified and can properly begin the process of improvement.

"I make no apology for making even greater demands of an education system which has to respond with greater urgency to increasingly difficult and competitive economic circumstances."

Prime Minister David Cameron, who hosted the summit, said: "To those who say that this will alienate some schools, I say we've got to stop making excuses and start doing what is best for our children: demanding excellence and confronting complacency wherever we find it."


But teachers' unions criticised the changes - with the NUT claiming that the re-labelled category would be used as a way of pressuring more schools into becoming academies.

Start Quote

The seemingly tough talk we have heard from the government today, may have popular appeal but the reality is that it has nothing to do with raising standards”

End Quote Chris Keates NASUWT teachers' union

"First we had 'underperforming' schools, now we have 'coasting' schools. Labelling schools in this way is derogatory and insulting to pupils, teachers, school leaders and governors," said NUT leader, Christine Blower.

"The government's real agenda behind this change is of course inventing yet another category of schools that it will then seek to force into academy status."

Chris Keates, head of the NASUWT teachers' union, attacked the proposals as "another crude ruse to enable the secretary of state to push more schools into the hands of profit making, private companies".

"The seemingly tough talk we have heard from the government today, may have popular appeal but the reality is that it has nothing to do with raising standards," she said.

"Instead, it is about ratcheting up pressure on schools, without providing the support and resources they need to assist them in securing further improvements.

"This announcement will encourage a culture of vicious management practices within schools which will have a profoundly negative effect on the workforce and children and young people alike."

Labour's shadow education secretary, Stephen Twigg, said coasting schools "need more than just a new label" and criticised the removal of routine inspections of outstanding schools.

"Outstanding schools can quickly slip back, so this measure could undermine confidence in the system and mean parents only get out of date information."

The change to the "satisfactory" category was welcomed by the RSA think tank, which warned about such schools "performing inconsistently".

"What needs to be addressed in particular is the variable quality of teaching. We need to find ways to incentivise the best teachers to join these schools and new ways of helping schools to improve," said the RSA's director of education, Becky Francis.

But head teachers warned that when it came to inconsistency it was Ofsted that needed to get "its own house in order".

"Inspections are too often at the whim of inspectors with little experience in the field they are inspecting and who have already made up their minds before they enter the school," said Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT head teachers' union.

"Heads feel the results can be the luck of the draw. If inspections are getting more severe, then they need to be more consistent and of higher quality or there will be no justice in the findings."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 500.

    For goodness sake, when are we going to stop inspecting the education and health sectors and start inspecting where it's really needed... politicians?!

    I wonder how many of them would come out as being 'unsatisfactory' / 'in need of improvement'.

    Most, I suspect. They would seem to tbe the last ones in a position to set the standards for /anyone/.

  • rate this

    Comment number 499.

    This is unbelievable, how many people criticising the Ofsted inspection as being a Tory Tool to divide a conquer. It was LABOUR who introduced it!
    How short your memories are, thank heavens none of you are teachers, Ooops you are!? Oh dear.
    The left wing Ministry of Truth is in full swing here, George Orwell was right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 498.

    nieuw divil
    21 Minutes ago

    The remainder need only know how to read & write and some basic maths.
    I believe that you and Michael Gove are one and the same. You never both appear on these forums at the same time and your comments are equally asinine.

  • Comment number 497.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 496.

    472Yes too many comps appear to be failing too many kids (I favour a grammar school system; a route out for bright, poor kids) but a country disregards its less academic students at its peril; the effects impact on us all as crime etc. Rather than write off all but an elite there should be a place for ALL kids including those who'll train as craftsmen; sparkies, plumbers, joiners etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 495.

    My childrens' primary school in a middle class area has been rated outstanding, but the school seems hopeless with struggling pupils who tend to be dumbed down in the school, and the parents have to resort to extra private tuition to get their kids up to standard. The school shouldn't have an outstanding rating, but Ofsted seems to have based its judgement mainly on Sats results.

  • rate this

    Comment number 494.

    Surveys have shown that many teachers are demoralised. Clearly, as any competent general knows, demoralised troops can not fight well. Simply beating them with a big stick may get them performing a bit harder in the short-term but causes a longer term loss of morale and more loss of performance. I believe that Wilshaw's approach may have some temporary gains, but will cause longer-term damage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 493.

    To respond to Walrus 999 I'm not reading many comments here saying 'satisfactory' is 'good enough', or that satisfactory should not be improved. I am reading many comments from parents and teachers who believe calling satisfactory schools unsatisfactory may not be the best way to make things improve and may actually cause harm.

  • rate this

    Comment number 492.

    You can't grade a teachers performance or a schools as anything higher than satisfactory if the classes outcomes are just national average. The OFSTED inspector may witness better than satisfactory teaching when they visit - which can then be commented upon in the report but the overall teaching grade will still be satisfactory.

  • rate this

    Comment number 491.

    The Tories are obsessed with social engineering. They want everything divided into neat little boxes. Everything and everyone in their place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 490.

    The solution is simple. Privatise the education system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 489.

    No wonder we are going down the pan when so many think that 'satisfactory' is 'good enough' with no need to encourage improvement.

  • rate this

    Comment number 488.

    All forms of educational performance assessment are blunt instruments. Learning outcomes are influenced by pupil motivation, parental support, peer group influence, school ethos, teacher competence, teacher training, curriculum content and numerous other factors. The dogma that no pupil/teacher can or should be be "average" (satisfactory) is a statistical oxymoron.

  • rate this

    Comment number 487.

    There seems to be a confusion between Ofsted ratings and exam league tables.

    League tables are heavily influenced by the ability/attitudes of children who attend a school, Ofsted ratings, much less so. Ofsted ratings look more at support structures in school, abilities of teachers to engage, etc

    Anyway it's been obvious for years that 'satisfactory' in these reports really means 'only just OK'

  • rate this

    Comment number 486.

    So much for educated ministers! They don't know the definition of "satisfactory." Basic English! If a school coasts it is usually in "good" or "excellent," rarely "satifactory." You can't compare a school in a deprived estate with a middle/ upper class one, I have taught in both. Keep politics out of education. Or send the politicians to teach a Year 2 class in third term - then reality strikes!

  • rate this

    Comment number 485.

    Once a school is labelled unsatisfactory or in need of improvement it only takes 10 parents to remove their offspring for the results to crash ( often the most motivated parents will be the ones with the most motivated pupils). Lower results and a lower place in the league tables then results in an intake in year 7 skewed and the school declines.

  • rate this

    Comment number 484.

    I am a teacher in the South East and I work hard and plan lessons both thoroughly and in advance. I work in a good school and my students are generally good to work with. I would say that there are a number of teachers at the school who take their jobs far less seriously. I've witnessed some terrible lesson planning and a lot of video watching. I agree that standards need to rise dramatically!

  • rate this

    Comment number 483.

    imagine the world if we did not set new targets to acheive, yes the way in which OFSTED and the GOV go about it is ham fisted and headline grabbing but it needs to be done. there is not doubt that schools are acheiving 90+% pass rates. this is not a reason to stand still but a reason to push forward. more positive language and descriptions required.

  • rate this

    Comment number 482.

    They feel that they can claim benefits because they see their parents doing it. They should make people go out to work, it's getting to easy to claim benefits. Also teachers have lost all power with authority, I'm only 27 and remember when I was at school we gave the teachers respect, now days there are more kids who don't respect teachers and have their parents backing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 481.

    I agree that OFSTED is not satisfactorily and needs improvement! OFSTED inspectors are usually people who know little about teaching or children. I would appoint OFSTED for 5 years (say from ages 35 -55) from schools and once their 5 years were up; they return to teaching! That way we have people with current teaching experience, not, as at present, sycophants of the system.


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