One in seven secondary schools branded inadequate

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The Independent Online

Half the schools inspected since the beginning of the school year have failed to get good marks from inspectors for the first time ever, figures revealed today.

They showed that one in ten of the 2,140 schools inspections were branded as “inadequate” – with the figure rising to as many as one in seven amongst secondary schools.

In addition, 40 per cent were rated as no more than satisfactory. Previously Christine Gilbert, the chief schools inspector, has insisted that satisfactory “is not good enough”.

Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, admitted it had “raised the bar” in the new regime – making it more difficult for schools to be declared good or outstanding.

However, it added that it was concentrating on schools which had shown weaknesses in previous inspections during the current cycle and was giving those previously declared outstanding an easier ride.

The figures have angered heads and teachers’ unions who claimed inspectors were “losing the confidence of schools, staff and parents”.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, added: “It is misleading and inaccurate to claim that Ofsted is raising the bar. In reality what Ofsted has done yet again is to move the goal posts.

“It is the equivalent of preparing to play a cricket match and turning up to find you are expected to do the high jump.”

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, added: “Evidence from our members shows that Ofsted have inspected a full range of schools not just focused on ‘weaker schools’.

Heads warn that inspectors are relying on a “tick-box” approach which means schools struggling in deprived areas cannot be ranked outstanding because their raw exam results count against them.

David Laws, the Liberal Democrats’ education spokesman,, said Labour had had 13 years “to get a grip on education but thousands of children still attend schools which are not considered to be providing good standards”.

“In spite of the controversy about whether these figures can be compared with earlier years, the bottom line is that half of the schools inspected were not good enough,” he added.

A breakdown of the figures supplied by Ofsted showed half the schools inspected had achieved the same ranking as in previous inspections, a quarter had gone down and a quarter improved.

“These results are what we expected given the sharper focus of the new inspection framework and the sample of schools inspected in the first few months,” said Ms Gilbert.

“Concerns have been raised that the new framework, with a focus on the standards reached by pupils, could penalise schools serving areas of deprivation.

“However, our analysis shows that eight per cent of schools considered to be serving areas of high deprivation have been graded outstanding in the last term, which is very similar to the overall figure of nine per cent for all schools.”

Meanwhile, Schools Secretary Ed Balls and Schools Minister Vernon Coaker wrote to all primary school headteachers yesterday in a bid to head off a boycott of national curriculum tests for 11-year-olds this summer.

It said ministers believed it was “essential” that the tests in maths and English took place” – while discussions on reforms to the testing programme took place.

Both the NUT and the National Association of Head Teachers are balloting on a boycott of the tests claiming they lead to too much “teaching to the test” in the final year of primary schooling.