Education secretary hatches plan to tackle ‘coasting’ schools

30 Jun 15

Hundreds of “coasting” schools risk being turned into academies under new strict measures announced today.

Education secretary Nicky Morgan said that the introduction of a new “coasting” grade for underperforming schools is intended to “shine a spotlight on complacency”. A Department for Education statement explained that the new measure is designed to highlight schools that are “failing to push every pupil to reach their potential”.

The new definition is expected to apply to hundreds of schools that have previously avoided negative Ofsted reports due to factors such as high-calibre intakes or a particular focus on pushing borderline pupils over the C/D exam grade threshold.

From 2016, the department will introduce a new target to define schools eligible for intervention if they cannot produce a “credible plan” to improve and ensure that all children will make the required progress.

Primary schools will be defined as “coasting” if there are fewer than 85% of children achieving an acceptable secondary-ready standard in reading, writing and maths.

At secondary level, the definition will apply if fewer than 60% of children achieve 5 A* to C including English and mathematics and have a below average proportions of pupils making progress.

Schools eligible for intervention will be those which fall below the “coasting” level for 3 years.

Those that can improve will be supported by a team of expert heads, and those that cannot will be turned into academies under the leadership of an expert school sponsors.

“I’m unapologetic about shining a spotlight on complacency and I want the message to go out loud and clear, that education isn’t simply about pushing children over an artificial borderline, but instead about stretching every pupil to unlock their potential and give them the opportunity to get on in life,” Morgan said.

“For too long a group of ‘coasting’ schools, many in leafy areas with more advantages than schools in disadvantaged communities, have fallen beneath the radar,” she added.

The new measure will be introduced through the Education and Adoption Bill.

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said: “No parent wants their child to be schooled in an inadequate, failing or coasting school. But these plans mean that it is likely that underperforming schools will simply pass from one poor provider to another, without the measures required to turn around sub-standard school leadership and poor classroom teaching.”

Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said, “Very many good secondary and primary schools – as defined by Ofsted, and as defined by parents – will now be classified as coasting.” He added that uncertainty triggered by the new approach meant these schools now face increased risks of losing head teachers and other key staff.

“Nicky Morgan says that coasting schools will ultimately be transformed into academies, but by her own definition very many academy schools will also be coasting,” Courtney said.

“The NUT has consistently argued that it is the job of local authorities to assist schools. Government needs to have a serious conversation with parents and the profession about what is best for pupils. An obsession with floor targets, league tables and Ofsted loses sight of the child. The NUT does not accept that there is an ‘academy effect’ that raises standards in schools. Over 100 ‘failing’ academies suggest otherwise.”

  • Judith Ugwumadu

    Judith Ugwumadu joined Public Finance International and Public Finance online as a reporter after stints at Financial Adviser, Global Security Finance and The Sunday Express. Currently, she writes about public finance, public services and economics.

    Follow her on @JudithUgwumadu_

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