Ofsted warns of 130 schools failing to improve for 12 years

13 Dec 17

A hard-core of some 130 ‘intractable’ schools has stubbornly failed to improve since 2005 despite repeated efforts, the chief inspector of schools has said.

Amanda Spielman said there were also 500 primary and 200 secondary schools judged to require improvement in at least two inspections, launching regulator Ofsted’s annual report in London today.

She said: “The intractable schools share some similar characteristics, including unstable leadership, high staff turnover and difficulty recruiting.

“Many have high proportions of pupils from deprived areas and above average proportions of pupils with special education needs and/or disabilities.”

There had been numerous unsuccessful interventions, yet schools in similar circumstances were achieving well.

Spielman said: “Progress is possible and we should all be wary of using the make-up of a school community as an excuse for underperformance.

“I do find myself frustrated with the culture of ‘disadvantage one-upmanship’ that has emerged in some places.”

She said the education system lacked capacity to help these schools as “the best school leaders and strongest academy trusts are spread too thinly”.

Policy makers should “break down ivory towers and ensure that the best schools and leaders are supporting those in need”, Spielman added.

She also voiced concern over the number of fundamentalist religious schools that were either deliberately flouting equalities law or were operating illegally.

Ofsted will seek powers to seize inappropriate material found in such schools.

Turning to child social care, Spielman said 34% of local authorities were rated ‘good’ or 'outstanding’, against only 26% in the previous inspections, and even those that required improvement had areas of good practice.  Only six remained to be inspected.

Spielman said domestic abuse was the most common factor among children who need social care.

In other points, Ofsted said further education colleges’ standards declined with a fall in the proportion judged ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ from 71% in August 2016 to 69% a year later.

The regulator also pointed out the apprenticeship levy raised a substantial amount of money but Ofsted was concerned that inadequate scrutiny would see the training sector attract disreputable operators.

Sir Kevan Collins, chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation charity – set up by the Sutton Trust charity – said it “just isn’t acceptable” there are 130 ‘intractable’ schools and added: “We must do more to support more effective collaboration between schools”. 

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said the conversion to academy status was not necessarily the answer for ‘intractable’ schools.

“Ofsted should speak truth to power [and] take government to task over this”, he said, citing the combination of deprivation and special needs found in such schools.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said Ofsted’s research into persistently failing schools should “include looking at the stigmatising impact of Ofsted judgements and government performance measures, which make it difficult to recruit leaders and teachers, and which deter some parents from sending their children to these schools”.

Ofsted annual report statistics:

•          94% of early years providers rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’;

•          90% of primary schools and 79% of secondary schools are ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’;

•          80% of further education and skills providers are ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’;

•          83% of children’s homes are ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’.

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