'Satisfactory' schools are often not, report says

Inspectors are being urged to abandon the term "satisfactory" to describe schools in the wake of evidence that thousands of those so labelled have serious weaknesses.

The call comes in a report published today by the Royal Society of Arts, which says they should be renamed "performing inconsistently". (Un)Satisfactory? Enhancing life chances by improving 'satisfactory schools' says that those labelled satisfactory should be declared "inadequate" if they get the satisfactory ranking in more than two inspections on the trot. The authors believe there will be more pressure on schools to seek to improve if the satisfactory label is abolished.

"The description 'satisfactory' suits no one," the report says. "It is pejorative enough to deter (some) families from choosing a school and to dampen staff morale. But at present there is little to help schools and their stakeholders to identify what specifically needs to improve.

"The term 'performing inconsistently' is a more accurate reflection of the school's situation and clearly flags that while some aspects of the school's provision may be good or better, improvement is needed in others." Figures show that one in three secondary schools are labelled "satisfactory" after inspections.

Becky Francis, the director of education at the RSA, said: "I think 'satisfactory' should only be used if it means what it says on the tin – and at the moment I don't think that it does." The report recommends bursaries for first-class graduates to encourage them to teach at struggling schools – including subsidising their student fees.