'Outstanding' schools to be re-examined

Sir Michael visiting a school in Honour Oak, south east London The areas on which schools are measured drops from 27 to four categories.

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A quarter of schools rated "outstanding" are to be re-examined because their teaching did not reach the highest standard, says the new chief inspector of schools in England.

Schools will only be "outstanding" if their teaching is, Sir Michael Wilshaw confirmed.

In his first major speech he said "we have tolerated mediocrity for too long" and radical improvements were needed.

Teaching unions have accused him of "trashing the school system".

A new framework for Ofsted inspections came in last month which ended regular inspections for outstanding schools.

Now schools with this highest overall rating but which did not get top marks for teaching face being re-inspected.

In his speech at a school in London, in front of heads from outstanding schools, Sir Michael said: "I believe we need radical improvements to the education system in this country.

Start Quote

We have tolerated mediocrity for far too long - it has settled in to the system”

End Quote Sir Michael Wilshaw Chief Inspector of Schools, England

"My view is that we have tolerated mediocrity for far too long - it has settled in to the system."

Sir Michael told the BBC the new inspection framework would "focus on what really matters - the quality of teaching".

"I don't see how you achieve outstanding status unless the quality of teaching is also outstanding," he said.

The new framework slimmed down the areas on which schools are measured from 27 to four categories.

No-notice inspections

Sir Michael has formally set out other changes he plans to make by the autumn in a consultation paper published on Thursday.

A big change is a move to "no-notice" inspections.

At the moment, most schools are told a few days before an inspection when inspectors are coming in.

Critics of the system complain this notice prevents inspectors from seeing schools as they really are and some have accused schools of "bussing out" challenging pupils by sending them on day trips.

Heads said the notice gave them the chance to pull together all the data inspectors would want to see and arrange cover for staff the inspectors might want to talk to.

Another change proposed is the scrapping of the "satisfactory" label.

This would mean there would be three possible gradings - outstanding, good and "requires improvement" - instead of the current four.

Chief inspector of schools Sir Michael Wilshaw: "We've got to up our game"

Sir Michael told BBC Radio 4's Today programme "satisfactory" was no longer good enough.

"All parents want their children to go to good schools," he said.

"If a school is not good it will be placed in a category requiring improvement. If it does not improve, it will end up in special measures."

He said 6,000 schools were currently graded as "satisfactory" and too many of these were "coasting".

Start Quote

The message that teachers and heads will take from today's announcement is that the chief inspector sees them as part of the problem rather than the solution. ”

End Quote Malcolm Trobe Association of School and College Leaders

Sir Michael said he wanted all schools to be good schools: "This is about a step change. We want to make sure we move things further forward for this nation and that the gap between best and worst and richest and poorest closes.

"These have not closed as much as they should have."

Chris Keates, the general secretary of the NASUWT, said Sir Michael's comments called in to question "every Ofsted judgement which has ever been made on any school".

"He is trashing the school system, trashing the reputation of Ofsted and removing anything that parents can rely on by which to judge a school.

"This is puerile game-playing at expense of schools, their teachers and pupils.

"The secretary of state's strategy of letting outstanding schools automatically become academies is now in tatters."

'Quite galling'

Clare Bradford, head teacher at Henbury School, a comprehensive in Bristol, is disappointed her school was recently rated only satisfactory by Ofsted, despite dramatic improvement.

She told Today: "I completely agree with Sir Michael that every school should have aspirations to be at least good or outstanding but it's very difficult for schools, particularly in challenging circumstances".

She said her school had seen the number of children with A* to C grades rise from 13% to 46% - and it was "quite galling" to be rated only as satisfactory.

Sir Michael responded by pointing out there were currently 700 schools "in challenging circumstances" which were graded as "outstanding".

As a head teacher, he was credited with turning around struggling schools.

The head teachers' association ASCL said it welcomed the tighter focus on teaching and learning in Ofsted inspections, but said schools in challenging areas should have the same chance of a high grade as a good school in a less difficult area.

Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of ASCL, said: "This is not about making excuses, it is acknowledging the challenges that schools in disadvantaged areas are dealing with, in addition to raising results".

Mr Trobe also said that Sir Michael's comments were "damaging and demoralising dedicated professionals".

"The message that teachers and heads will take from today's announcement is that the chief inspector sees them as part of the problem rather than the solution," he said.

"This is no way to improve our education system, nor to treat hard working professionals who are doing the best for the young people in their care."

Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said: "I'm glad that the government appears to have performed a partial U-turn on inspecting outstanding schools.

"The government should ensure all schools, including those rated as outstanding, are inspected on a regular basis. Parents need to have confidence that a school's Ofsted rating is up to date."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 365.

    One other thing I want to say is that if children spend more waking time in school than at home, then schools must take responsibility for the way children turn out. I was on a train recently, teacher asked boy to do his tie up, boy answered "get lost miss" Miss did nothing about it!!! Fully Qualified teacher I have no doubt. Much better teachers in independent schools who are not "qualified"

  • rate this

    Comment number 364.

    363. john
    ...this is common sense. How you can have an "Outstanding" school where Teaching and Learning does not reach this standard ..'

    School where the inspectors saw good teaching on their two days but said the excellent exam results and stunning work in children's books meant the teaching must usually be outstanding. This wouldn't be allowed in the new world of Ofsted. This is common sense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 363.

    Irrespective of what the Unions say about trashing the school system, this is common sense. How you can have an "Outstanding" school where Teaching and Learning does not reach this standard has always bewildered me. As Chair of Governors of an Outstanding school that achieved Outstanding in T & L I really believe that this is a no brainer. It is for the benefit of the students! That is what counts

  • rate this

    Comment number 362.

    Looks as though Ofsted are creating more work for themselves - and of course more fees for their consultants. How can they redefine Outstanding at this stage when we assume they had set clear guidelines for there ratings. Sack them for being inefficient!!"!

  • rate this

    Comment number 361.

    With due respect to the guy from Finland we have a population of 60 million not 5.5 million and a large chuck of our younger population comes from immigrants which affects academic standards comparing the two is stupid.
    What the teaching profession needs is much less political interference and proper support for teachers in a stable cirriculem not being constantly changed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 360.

    Why, oh why, is education always politicised? Wilshaw is nothing but a politician. Schools are failing children because they are being forced to be bureaucratic, box-ticking institutions. Children are hindered from learning, from educating themselves, because politicians are constantly interfering with education. Public accountability, yes, proscriptive systems without humanity, no.

  • rate this

    Comment number 359.

    I went to a state school in a leafy middle class area.(Surrey) There was only one thing wrong with that school - the teachers! Left wing ideology (let the kids do want they want) Lack of discipline because the teachers did not believe in discipline and an attitude that the teachers were on the same level as the "kids". Also Teachers scruffily dressed. PRIVATISE THE LOT - GIVE PARENTS VOUCHERS!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 358.

    348. Rob
    ' Teachers need to understand that they need to improve and be more consistent'

    You mean consistently outstanding like everybody else in society. Judged on a few minutes teaching by an inspector who is, of course, consistently outstanding ... but doesn't need to be because the rules say the inspector is always right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 357.

    Sir Michael is a real contender for most unpopular person in Education.
    I thought Gove had that sewn up.
    If "outstanding schools" aren't really outstanding, and "satisfactory" schools are in *need of improvement", what have Ofsted been doing all these years?
    Surely we need new Inspectors, perhaps the getting some classroom teachers to do the job might work. Sack the ex-heads!

  • rate this

    Comment number 356.

    314. hosks66

    Yes, that's exactly what I said.

  • rate this

    Comment number 355.

    347. The Deafening Roar of the Truth
    Ofsted should make a start by closing down those schools where the teachings of Marx & Engels take precedence over English Literature & Mathematics.

    One silly Toryboy like you does more for socialism than Marx ever did!

  • rate this

    Comment number 354.

    An enormous--perhaps the biggest--contributory factor to the exam results achieved by a school is the behaviour and civility of its pupils--a proxy for the circumstances of their parents. There are 'excellent' schools near me with worse results than those rated 'good'; as long I'm not compelled otherwise, I'm overlooking Ofsted in favour of results to send my child to a middle-class school.

  • rate this

    Comment number 353.

    347 The deafining roar of the truth.
    Why is marx/engels bad? I've studied both and descartes/nietzsche. I've worked in the financial sector/helping unemployed/corals. Given kids a broard education is vital and stimulating. Let kids make their opinions. Now brainwashing them that capitalism/fascism/socialsim is the correct system is wrong.Shall we ban all knowledge of Adam Smith/British Empire?

  • rate this

    Comment number 352.

    Having been through at least 5 Ofsted inspections, and having attended a number of meetings with inspectors, I would suggest that Ofsted's first order of business should be to put their own house in order. Good inspectors are a real help to hard-working professionals; poor ones - of which there are many - prove the old adage:

    Those who can, teach; those who can't, Ofsted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 351.

    Just tell me this - how much is Sir Michael Wilshaw paid? How is he paid? and, how much tax does he pay? Until those questions are answered there is no real point listening to what he has to say!

  • rate this

    Comment number 350.

    This is madness. Some teachers aren't good enough? How do you measure teacher success, pupils passing their exams? I have a Fiat 500 car, I want it to go 300 MPH but it's just not going to happen is it? The truth is, not all pupils will cut it and then what will the government say when pupils still fail their exams even with the best teachers in the world tutoring them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 349.

    348 Rob
    You cannot judge a persons ability on an inspection. There are too many unknown factors, maybe the teacher was nervous, maybe they had the flu, maybe some of the kids had a bad day, maybe the kids wanted to play up to the new person (you), maybe they didn't like the teacher. Inspections are pointless. Base a schools results on english/maths/science. Teaching is subjective - or results.

  • rate this

    Comment number 348.

    I am a part time inspector. On many inspections the standard of teaching on the curriculum area I was inspecting could have been good, or satisfactory, but the criteria collation often meant that an area will be judged as good or outstanding. Inspections are data driven; the change to an emphasis on teaching is welcome. Teachers need to understand that they need to improve and be more consistent

  • Comment number 347.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 346.

    If teaching did not meet the highest standards how did the school receive an outstanding results. Were the teachers the problem or the students and how can they possibly rate them in such a short visit. Headmasters and other teachers are the best judges of each other and yearly reports from them to an independant body would help much more.


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