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Education News

Ofsted boss outlines rating changes


As many as 1,000 outstanding schools could find their status under review because their teaching is not of the highest grade, Sir Michael Wilshaw announced today.

The new Ofsted chief inspector also acknowledged that plans to scrap the satisfactory rating will leave more schools in special measures.

And he suggested that top headteachers should be "conscripted" to join Ofsted on inspections.

In his first keynote speech, Sir Michael said that teaching is "central to the life of a school" and should be a key factor in deciding if a school is outstanding.

"We need clear and demanding criteria for a school to be judged 'good' or 'outstanding', he said.

"A good school should have at least good teaching, and an outstanding school should have outstanding teaching.

"Good and outstanding leadership of teaching and learning drives improvement and knows that the culture of the school and the progress of pupils depend on it."

Concerns have previously been raised that a number of schools have been judged as outstanding by inspectors, despite not receiving this rating for their teaching.

Sir Michael told a group of headteachers at an event in central London that one in five outstanding primaries, and half of outstanding secondary schools, around 1,000 schools in total, did not have outstanding teaching at their last inspection.

"Teaching is central to the life of the school, it's the most important thing teachers do," he said.

"This means schools previously judged outstanding might be subject to a review of that status at some stage in the future.

"There needs to be a clear gold standard understood by all.

"And central to that understanding is that teaching is the predominant factor in achieving outstanding status."

Sir Michael has already announced plans for unannounced inspections for all schools, and to scrap the satisfactory rating and replace it with "requires improvement".

Speaking after today's event, Sir Michael acknowledged the impact the changes will have on schools.

"There will be, once the requirement to improve category starts in September, there will be more schools going into special measures.

"But the thing about designating a school in a category is that there is a lot of attention on them."

Schools are placed in special measures if they are found to be under-performing in many areas and need intensive support to improve.

Sir Michael also told today's event that top schools "should not luxuriate in their own outstandingness".

Headteachers of outstanding schools have a "moral imperative and duty" to help others, he said, adding he was in discussions with the National College - which develops school leaders - to introduce "a sort of national service for outstanding heads and leaders".

"These 'conscripts' will join Ofsted on a small number of inspections - no more than six days of the year - to ensure consistency of judgment across the different phases."

Sir Michael reiterated his view that weak teachers should not receive pay rises, with only committed and hard-working staff given financial rewards.

He told today's event that it was "quite legitimate for Ofsted to look at the correlation between the quality of teaching and salary progression".

"There is nothing more irritating in the staff room than seeing someone being promoted or getting more money, who is not doing as good a job as you are," he said.

Sir Michael added: "I know this is a difficult issue and performance management can be a challenging process. But nothing is worse for staff morale than good teachers feeling there is a lack of equity in the way they are treated."

Last week, he had raised concerns that 92-93% of teachers go through pay thresholds, but 40% of lessons are less than good.

The new Ofsted chief also used his speech to warn that gaps in education for rich and poor children remain, saying "without radical change now, we will see more social and economic division in this country - we saw some of it in the summer".

Speaking afterwards, Sir Michael explained: "The point I'm making is that the great majority of young people who took part in those riots were failed by the school system.

"They did not do well in school, and large numbers did not have sufficient qualifications and skills to get a job, and I think that gaps in educational performance are still there."

There is a "yawning divide" between the richest and the poorest, he added.

Union leaders reacted angrily to Sir Michael's proposals on school inspection.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "This is yet more aggressive rhetoric from a chief inspector who has obviously warmed to the task of attacking the teaching profession from any angle.

"The latest proposals about unpicking an 'outstanding' result for a school from the standard of teaching leaves Sir Michael Wilshaw's proposals appearing to be more concerned with facilitating the Government's policy of converting as many schools as possible to academy status than genuinely aiding school improvement.

"While no-one would disagree that schools need to be performing to the best of their ability, Sir Michael Wilshaw has to accept that the job of teaching is made more difficult depending on the home circumstances of pupils. No increased amount of haranguing of teachers or head teachers will alter this fact."

Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: "ASCL agrees with the chief inspector that children have only one chance at an education, and we welcome a sharper focus on the judgments that matter most such as the quality of teaching and learning and student achievement.

"Our big concern is the way that inspection judgments are being made. An inspection system is only fair when a good school in a challenging area has the same chance of a high grade as a good school in less difficult area. This is not about making excuses, it is acknowledging the challenges that schools in disadvantaged areas are dealing with, in addition to raising results."

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said: "His statements today, after barely a month in post, now call into question every Ofsted judgment which has ever been made on any school.

"He is trashing the school system, trashing the reputation of Ofsted and removing anything that parents can rely on by which to judge a school.

"This is puerile game-playing at the expense of schools, their teachers and pupils."

Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said: "I'm glad that the Government appears to have performed a partial U-turn on inspecting outstanding schools. A rigorous Ofsted rating can't be a one-off occurrence.

"The Government should ensure all schools, including those rated as outstanding, are inspected on a regular basis. Parents need to have confidence that a school's Ofsted rating is up to date."