In a move Ofsted says is designed to ‘tackle the number of coasting schools that have remained stubbornly ‘satisfactory’ over a number of inspections’, it has said it will scrap its ‘satisfactory’ rating, replacing it with a ‘requires improvement’ category. But one union has said the measure ‘is about ratcheting up pressure on schools, without providing the support and resources they need to assist them in securing further improvements ‘.
Currently, schools can be ranked ‘inadequate’, ‘satisfactory’, ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’. But if the new proposals, which are subject to consultation, get the green light, ‘satisfactory’ will become ‘requires improvement’, and no school will be allowed to remain within this grade for more than three years.
Schools ‘requiring improvement’ will be subject to earlier re-inspection within 12-18 months, rather than up to three years as at the moment. Schools will be given up to two inspections within that three-year period to demonstrate improvement. Any school that doesn’t then come up to scratch will require special measures.
“We all know that parents want to send their child to a good school and fortunately, thanks to the hard work of teachers and school leaders around the country, many of them do. However, around a third of schools failed to meet this level at their last inspection,” said Ofsted’s chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw.
‘Not good enough’
“There are too many coasting schools not providing an acceptable standard of education. 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.”
Quoted in The Guardian, 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. Every teacher, every head and every school should be aiming for excellence – no lower.”
‘Public ill-served by Ofsted’
But commenting on the news of further changes to the inspection system, Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said that the announcement indicated that parents and the public are being ill-served by Ofsted, and that it would encourage a culture of ‘vicious management practices’ that would have a ‘profoundly negative effect on the workforce and children and young people alike’.
“The new inspection framework came into effect on 1 January and yet in only two weeks we have had announcements of major changes to it and the threat of more changes to come,” she said.
“Parents would be right to question the competence of a body which clearly doesn’t trust its own judgements on how best to support schools in raising standards of education. First the no-notice inspections and now a major change to the way in which some schools are categorised.
‘Ratcheting up pressure on schools’
“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. Instead, it is about ratcheting up pressure on schools, without providing the support and resources they need to assist them in securing further improvements.