Can Ofsted fix schools that are stuck in ‘Requires Improvement’?

Amanda Spielman is surprised that some ‘requires improvement’ schools are ‘stuck’. It is, she says, ‘nothing short of a scandal’ that these 290 primaries have not improved since 2005. One primary head asks the question in Teachwire.

Now, while I agree with her that the thought of some children being unable to ever attend a ‘good’ school is something to be concerned over, I am a little sceptical of her plan to launch an investigation to find out why interventions that were put in place to support these schools have not worked.

First up, there’s the fact that these schools are RI in the first place and, as such, are under regular Ofsted scrutiny. I don’t mean that they shouldn’t be regularly visited, but rather that being under ‘regular’ Ofsted scrutiny – as in subject to the full spectrum of the Ofsted framework – may not be entirely fair.

These are institutions where ‘the proportions of pupils who are eligible for free school meals and those who are white British pupils eligible for free school meals are well above the national average.’ Rapidly improving standards in these schools is hard.

I’m not advocating that these schools should be cut some slack when it comes to providing high-quality teaching and learning, but I do wonder if, when they are next inspected, being judged against a scaled-down set of criteria might give them the space to focus on what is needed.

It’s an unfortunate reality that when you are pushing to raise standards in a challenging context, you may have to prioritise the core curriculum – through which we are judged annually – and not the wider curriculum. Nobody wants to do this but, sometimes, you have to. Because sometimes that is what your school will need for the immediate future.

The other reason why I think Amanda Spielman’s proposed investigation might be misguided is because it may not take into account the real root of the problem. Chances are, these interventions that have been ‘supporting’ schools are likely to have been Ofsted facing: swift action based on what can be statistically measured. This does not take into account the needs of these schools’ communities.

How many of these interventions were linked to tackling poverty? How many sought to reduce the 26% of Y6 children from disadvantaged areas who are growing up obese? Did any of the interventions seek to help a school improve the quality of life for its pupils and families? Swiftly improving exam pass rates will have an impact on a child’s life chances, but I wish it wasn’t merely a drop in the ocean after taking into account the diminishing levels of equity afforded to our most vulnerable children and the dwindling of school budgets. And sadly, that is why I imagine the interventions in these schools have failed, but I’m not sure Amanda ‘no evidence cuts are harming education’ Spielman will see that.

Read the full article Can Ofsted fix schools that are stuck in ‘Requires Improvement’?

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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Categories: Employment, Infant, Ofsted, Primary, Secondary, Teaching and Uncategorized.


  1. Anonymous

    I think FFT analysis of these schools has exposed the myth of ‘rapidly improving schools’.
    If the Ofsted consultation results in a decision that OIs will not accept in-school data this will result in a further bias against ‘rapid’ or indeed any kind of improvement in outcomes being validated until the year after any Inspection.
    Ofsted will inspect the past so that they can guess the future.

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