Schools fail to challenge high achievers

The chief inspector of schools has said that the failure of state secondary schools to nurture their brightest pupils is ‘an issue of national concern’. Teachers have reacted angrily, saying Ofsted is pandering to Michael Gove.

Sir Michael Wilshaw has warned that thousands of bright children are being let down by non-selective secondary schools in England, the BBC reports. They are failing to achieve top GCSE grades because of a culture of low expectations and Sir Michael recommends streaming or setting pupils from the start of secondary education.

The new report from Ofsted found that more than a quarter of previously high-attaining students had failed to achieve at least a B in English and maths GCSEs and that staff in some schools did not even know who their most able pupils were.

It found that in 40% of schools visited by inspectors the brightest pupils were failing to make the progress they were capable of. Expectations of them in the first year of secondary school were too low: “They tread water. They mark time. They do stuff they’ve already done in primary school. They find work too easy and they are not being sufficiently challenged,” Sir Michael said.

Chris Keates, general secretary of NASUWT, accused Ofsted of providing misleading, unhelpful and ‘outrageous’ conclusions, based on data from only 41 secondary schools out of a total of 4,400, The Guardian reports. She questioned Ofsted’s impartiality, claiming that it ‘has been sucked into becoming a glove puppet of the secretary of state for education’, and added: “We are not saying that there is not room for improvement, but teachers are working extremely hard to help children of every ability and have very high aspirations. It is nothing short of scandalous that even as young people are going into school this week to take exams they have been told they are worthless and now they are being told that their teachers have failed them.”

Do you think comprehensive schools are failing their brightest students, or are Ofsted’s findings misleading?

 

10 thoughts on “Schools fail to challenge high achievers

  1. I really haven’t studied or taught in the U.K., so I don’t know specifically about U.K. schools. However, I grew up and attended school in the U.S.A., and then spent 10 years as a teacher in Sri Lanka…and was really shocked to see how much higher the academic standards are for secondary school students in Sri Lanka as compared to the U.S. Sri Lankan students – most of whom English is a second, not a first language – in the better government and religious schools in Kandy and Colombo routinely read Shakespeare dramas; do a very challenging curriculum of World literature in translation; and have advanced, challenging O-level and A-level English curricula also. From Grade 6, the students who do well in their Grade 5 scholarship exams have the opportunity to take 3 subjects in English, so many students also do Science, History, Geography, etc. in a very challenging curriculum. The exams are extremely difficult – often have topics that weren’t actually taught in class – so all the students have to attend tuition class on a daily basis just to be able to get minimum passing marks (and the tuition class teachers don’t do the homework for the students, either, just help!). I have taught students who have done both the Sri Lanka O-level exams and the IGSE exams, and they say the international exams are much easier than the Sri Lankan exams. The Sri Lankan students also do all their higher-level Maths exams without a calculator. The Sri Lankan government and religious schools (although not the international schools) also put a lot of emphasis on discipline, moral values, projects such as cleaning the schools, working together in their houses for sport meets, etc. The A-level Sri Lankan students work just as hard as university students in the USA and often sleep less than 4 hours a night! From this experience and what I’m reading here, it looks like legacy of British education may now be at a better standard in its former colonies than in the U.K.!

  2. In the immortal words of Mr Gove Yada, yada yada, should we say?

    That teachers are failing higher achieving pupils could be true if there were any research or even any education plan that says KS2 results have ever been designed to tie in with KS4 outcome expectations. Why do some secondary schools re-test pupils in the first year of secondary education? Because KS2 SATs scores are notoriously unreliable and in most cases do not accurately reflect litracy or numeracy ability required to make good progress at secondary school. So if someone is now telling us that a large percentage of pupils fail to achieve top grades and that informaion based on inacurate scores given to pupils 5 years earlier am I surprised? Five years is under half the time it takes for all of the cells in a human body to be replaced, it could be argued you are not even assessing the same pupils five years later.

    Primaries are graded on the outcome at KS2 SATs so numbers are often tweaked to appear more pallatable to Ofstead. Factor in the Four / Five years between leaving KS2 and completing KS4 and many children face significant issues in thier lives, broken homes, deaths, homelessness, to name but some of the issues a young person may face outside of the protection of wealth and social status of ones parents.

    So are we now suggesting that now suddenly it is a surprise for our Sec of state and Chief Ofsted inspector to discover this discrepency in the continuity and accuracy of grading that the teaching profession has been long aware of?

    In most other industries, lobbyists, journalisim and banking excluded..(proven to be a great threat to society) the regulator is held accountable for the failures of the sector it regulates. If Ofstead are suggesting that there is endemic failure in our system and they have been regulating it for 10 years what does that tell you about Ofstead?

  3. Instead of persistently knocking teachers, Michael Gove and Ofsted need to look again at the real issues. Children learning in crumbling buildings full of mould do not feel valued and have high expectations. Children with special needs having no special school places available, and being expected to manage in a hige mainstream secondary school with little or no support. A culture of saving money allowing head teachers to allocate key pastoral roles to people with no professional expertise and no higher education – no wonder children feel unsupported.
    Children with severe behavioural problems stuck in schools with no capacity to move them forward, no qualified behaviour support staff in many secondary schools, no PRU places in some authorities and schools unable to exclude pupils who threaten the wellbeing of other pupils and teachers.
    Stop pretending that middle class values are enough to heal the damage – wake up to the reality! Big classes, not enough money, no trained support staff – that’s why children are not achieving. It’s not about wearing a blazer and changing your school’s name – it’s about having proper facilities in ALL SCHOOLS, with access to support services to help ALL children, not only the brightest.

  4. ‘….a quarter of previously high-attaining students had failed to achieve at least a B in English and maths GCSEs… ‘ so how are these high attaining students recognised then? If you are high attaining then in my mind it is 7-8 straight a’s and above at gcse / igcse, if not then you are clearly not high attaining. If a student is not even getting a B grade then they have either been ‘carried’ not ‘pushed’ in primary or are not mature enough to / be in a position to want to achieve this at this time in their life or have had their levels at ks 2/3 overinflated so that expectations are unrealistic.

  5. Is the head of ofsted in agreement with Mr Govenin suggesting that all that matters are academic achievements otherwise you are a failure? That is all that the current system does and league table have created this issue. Success comes in all sorts of different ways. Surely we should be nurturing and supporting all students whatever their endeavours be it academic or otherwise…..do we want to live in a society whereby if your are not an academic you have no worth? That is the kind of big society that we are currently creating

  6. Is the head of ofsted in agreement with Mr Gove in suggesting that all that matters are academic achievements otherwise you are a failure? That is all that the current system does and league table have created this issue. Success comes in all sorts of different ways. Surely we should be nurturing and supporting all students whatever their endeavours be it academic or otherwise…..do we want to live in a society whereby if you are not an academic you have no worth? That is the kind of big society that we are currently creating

  7. I work in a super school in a mining village in south yorkshire where two schools have been merged. our ofsted visit deemed us unsatisfactory. Michael Gove thinks that G & T pupils are not being stretched,but he also wishes to sack 220,000Teaching Assisstant staff. These children themselves are special needs just at the other end of the spectrum. How will teachers be able to stretch these pupils without the support.
    A very disgruntled TA\HLTA Science Specialist.

  8. Both my sons achieved level 5s in English, Maths and Science at a high-achieving state Primary School, however going onto the ‘best secondary school’ in the area, we have been very disappointed in the lack of challenge. They were only set in Maths and Science in Year 7, and continually moaned about the other pupils’ poor abilities in reading, spelling, science, and maths. In Year 10 my son has to endure poor readers struggling to read the GCSE text ‘Of Mice and Men’ and then being told off for not following the class read (he is so bored and frustrated, he is many pages ahead). What was the point of Guided Reading in Primary, for Secondary Schools to dumb down again, and not stream children according to ability? Talking to other mothers (we are all in educational work) we are impressed with how primary schools work so hard to push the children and help them achieve their potential through exciting and interactive lessons, and then disappointed by secondary schools undoing the good work done by subjecting pupils to boring lessons of copying notes off a board. There is even more worryingly, the problem of the curriculum not being covered in time for exams, and pupils having to revise without any teacher input at the last minute. We even had to insist on our son(predicted A*) taking the higher level science paper rather than the Foundation where the school would be guaranteed their C grade – he actually achieved 1 A and 1 B.

  9. Mrs Sagar,

    It is a pity that you feel negative about your son’s secondary school, but please do not tar all other schools with the same brush as you cannot know enough about those schools to say things like
    “disappointed by secondary schools undoing the good work done by subjecting pupils to boring lessons of copying notes off a board. There is even more worryingly, the problem of the curriculum not being covered in time for exams”…-

    My children were failed by their primary school and are all gifted but were never challenged. However I cannot praise their secondary school enough- both girls are engaged with their learning and are doing well in all areas, not just academic. The pupils are all valued regardless of ability and the school presents well rounded individuals fit and ready for the world of work. Teachers are so demoralised that they are leaving in droves and with the current proposals to remove pay scales etc I am wondering how Gove thinks he will attract the best teachers for the future. What we are witnessing is privatisation through the back door, and it will be parents and pupils who pay for it in the longer term. As a teacher myself I am outraged that it is always teachers who are scapegoats for so many social factors which contribute to the success or failure of school children… are we responsible for how a child behaves when beginning school? For children not being toilet trained? We cannot possibly be held accountable forthese and other issues later on- e.g. non-attendance of teens, children with problems such as self harm/poor parenting/poor diet & sleep/ gender and identity issues/ poverty/parents with prison sentences or crime and drug issues etc etc- so how does Gove propose to help these groups who are very real but do not, apparently, come under his radar in his new vision. I am seeing children aged 6 coming to school with headlice from xmas until now because mum can’t cope with dad’s drink problems… and I could go on. It infuriates me that people do not see the whole picture, amd it breaks my heart that children are living like this and all Gove worries about are the ***ing results. Ger real Mr Gove. There is so much more to kids than academia… they need to be loved and have their needs met first, only then will they be able to engage with the curriculum offered. Rant over.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>