The latest Ofsted inspections offer some pleasant reading for hard-pressed teachers – especially for those in the West Midlands and North East but less so for professionals in the East of England.
Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw reports schools in England are improving at an “unprecedented rate” after annual inspection figures just released showed that 39% of schools have improved since their last inspection.
Standards office Ofsted says this means 78% of schools are graded “outstanding” or “good”, compared with just below 70% last year.
Scoring the highest increases of 11% were the West Midlands and the North East which in August 2012 had the lowest percentage of schools judged as good or outstanding
The increase represents the most rapid rate of improvement in Ofsted’s 21-year history. It means that more than 600,000 more pupils started the new term last week in schools rated good or outstanding than a year ago.
“England’s school system is making some genuine and radical advances,” added Sir Michael.
Speaking to an audience of more than 100 headteachers in Manchester, he said: “The unprecedented rate of national improvement that this new data shows is cause for celebration.”
“Thanks to the work of dedicated teachers and outstanding headteachers up and down the country, England’s school system is making some genuine and radical advances. It means that thousands more children are getting at least a good standard of education. I am delighted to be able to deliver the good news.”
The figures published by Ofsted resulted from 7,226 inspections in the last academic year and showed that:
• 39% of schools improved compared with their previous
inspections – up from 32% in the year before.
• 41% of schools stayed in the same category
• 18% 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.
Sir Michael said he believed changes to Ofsted’s school inspection framework that came into force 12 months ago was clearly having a galvanising effect on England’s schools system.
Sir Michael said: “These figures illustrate the greater urgency of heads, leaders, governors and teachers to improve their schools to a good standard and not put up with second-best.”
“Headteachers are using the ‘requires improvement’ judgement as a way of bringing about rapid improvement in their schools, especially in the quality of teaching. And the national improvement we are seeing is all the better for taking place under the terms of a more rigorous school inspection framework.”
“I am determined to use the power and influence of inspection to improve our education system. The message from Ofsted is unequivocal – the acceptable standard of education in this country now starts at ‘good’.
“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’.”
“The changes were 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.”
The major changes introduced in September 2012 included cutting the amount of notice schools were given of an inspection, and replacing the old satisfactory rating with “requires improvement”. Under the new system, schools judged to require improvement at two consecutive inspections and who are still not providing a good education at the third, face being placed in special measures.
The latter move has caused upset among headteachers’ unions concerned it will leave more schools in special measures.
THE OFSTED STATS:
In total, 7,226 section 5 inspections were conducted in the 2012/13 academic year to June 2013 and published by August 2013. Of these, 39 per cent improved (2,789) since their last inspection, 41 per cent remained the same (2,945) and 18 per cent declined (1,314). In the
2011/12 academic year, 32 per cent of schools inspected improved.
All English regions have seen an increase since September 2012 in the proportion of their schools judged good or outstanding for overall effectiveness at their most recent inspection. The increases varied between six and 11 percentage points.
The lowest increase was in the East of England, this is now the region with the lowest percentage of schools judged as good or outstanding
(72 per cent). In August 2012 the lowest percentage of schools judged as good or outstanding was the West Midlands. The West Midlands showed the highest increase (11 per cent) alongside the North East.