Schools must do better to engage children, warns Ofsted report

Chief inspector raises serious concerns about teaching standards and vulnerable children
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The Independent Online

Teaching in hundreds of secondary schools is too dull, prompting concerns bored pupils behave worse, Ofsted warned yesterday.

The education standards watchdog voiced "serious concern" that teaching standards were "no more than satisfactory" in four out of ten schools nationwide.

"Satisfactory teaching does not deliver good enough progress for pupils in the most challenging circumstances," warned chief schools inspector Miriam Rosen as she delivered her annual report.

It warned of a link between weak teaching and poor behaviour with disruption more likely to take place when pupils failed to be engaged by lessons.

The Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, agreed: "It's common sense that where teaching doesn't engage pupils – they can lose attention and disrupt the class."

The report also highlighted that pupils from the poorest communities were four times more likely to be taught in inadequate schools than those from well-off backgrounds.

In all, only 48 per cent of schools in deprived areas were ranked as good or better, compared with 71 per cent in more affluent areas.

"It is a constant concern that those very children and young people who most need the best services are often those being let down," said Miss Rosen.

The report, Ofsted added, had "stark findings on services for the most vulnerable children". Nearly one in five local authorities inspected for the way they took care of vulnerable children were found to be "inadequate", placing pupils at risk of abuse or neglect. In addition, too many children were waiting too long for adoption.

The report also concluded that too many schools were "coasting" – nearly 800 schools reinspected this year were still not good enough, having failed to improve on a satisfactory rating in their last inspection.

In addition, 40 per cent of those rated outstanding in their last inspection had declined – with three having slipped to inadequate and 11 now rated as satisfactory.

This finding questions the decision by the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, to spare schools ranked as outstanding from further inspection unless there are warning signs of deterioration.

"It is of great concern to see the high numbers of schools, colleges and childcare providers that are consistently delivering services to children and young people that are no better than satisfactory," said Miss Rosen.

The report described them as stubbornly "stuck" at a satisfactory level.

"Parents aspire to go to a school that's better than satisfactory," Miss Rosen added.

Even in schools that were judged to have above average or high exam results, there were concerns.

"The key factor in many of these schools was that there was a level of complacency about the standards attained by pupils who were not achieving their potential," the report said.

That brought inspectors back to the standards of teaching again.

In 2003, the then chief schools inspector Sir David Bell (who went on to become Permanent Under Secretary at the Department for Education) described the current crop of teachers as the "best generation" we have ever had. It was seized upon by Labour ministers as evidence of rising standards.

Asked if that statement could be repeated today, Miss Rosen said: "It isn't something that we've particularly said recently."

The report cited a survey of 100 secondary schools which revealed more than one in three suffered from dull teaching. "Inspections also identified weaknesses in these schools in applying behaviour policies consistently," it added.