Wealthy suburban schools risk losing 'outstanding' status over failing poorest pupils, warns Ofsted chief

Sir Michael Wilshaw says affluent West Berkshire is the worst place in England to be a child from a poor family

Education Editor

Schools in England's wealthiest suburbs risk losing their "outstanding" status if they fail to improve the performance of their poorest pupils, warns the education standards watchdog Ofsted.

The chief schools inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said the worst offenders in terms of neglecting disadvantaged pupils were often those in the leafy suburbs with only a handful of pupils on free school meals.

"Where do you think is the worst place in England to be a child from a poor family, in terms of educational opportunity?" he asked an audience of headteachers and senior educationalists in London today. "The evidence suggests it's West Berkshire.

"Disadvantaged children in this lovely, affluent part of south-east England last year had: the worst attainment in the whole country at primary school, the second worst at secondary school and were in the bottom three local authorities for attainment at 19.

"West Berkshire is an example of a much wider problem affecting the relatively prosperous counties of south-east England,  On the surface, education outcomes for these areas may look good but, for children eligible for free school meals, they hide deep and shocking failure.

Sir Michael announced that all schools shown to be neglecting their poorest pupils would now be re-inspected and would not be allowed to retain the rating "outstanding" if they failed to improve the performance of their poorest pupils.

Research published by Ofsted, "Unseen Children: access and achievement 20 years on", showed that the performance of disadvantaged pupils in some authorities at GCSE - notably the Isle of Wight and Shropshire - had worsened in the past five years.

It concluded that poverty of  expectation was, indeed, a greater problem than material poverty in shackling the performance of disadvantaged pupils.  In 30 schools, not a single pupil on free school meals got five A* to C grade passes at GCSE including maths and English.

"Children from disadvantaged backgrounds very often have high ambitions, especially when they are young," said Sir Michael.  "But the odds against them achieving can worsen with age.

"All too often there comes a point at which expectations shrink.  They don't see their elder siblings going to university, so they think it's not for them.  Or no-one in their household is in paid work, so they don't expect to get a job.

"We know of examples of schools serving areas of great disadvantage that are doing very well by their children," he added. "It is true that many families find it hard to make ends meet.  But the children of poor families with high aspirations do better at school than those whose parents and teachers expect little of them."

Figures cited in the research showed that the worst performers - by a long chalk - were white British working-class pupils. Only 26 per cent of British white-working class boys and 35 per cent of British  white working-class girls obtained five A* to C grade passes including maths and English last year.  Black Caribbean boys and girls - with 32 per cent and 48 per cent respectively were the second worst performers.

"Five years ago Bangladeshi and Black African pupils were trailing their white British counterparts," it said. "Now Bangladeshi pupils outperform their white British peers and black African pupils perform at a similar level.

"While girls outperformed boys across all of the main ethnic groups, the achievement of white British girls eligible for free school meals was below that of low income boys from other ethnic groups with the exception of black Caribbean boys.  The poor performance of low income white British pupils is not, therefore, a gender issue."

Today's research coincided with the publication of new statistics from the Department for Education showing one in three state secondary schools failed to send a single pupil to Oxford or Cambridge last year.  The statistics, showing for the first time the destination of school leavers, showed three state schools - St Benedict's Catholic school in Suffolk, Dame Alice Owen's in Hertfordshire and Cardinal Vaughan Memorial school in Kensington and Chelsea - tied for first place, sending seven per cent of their pupils to Oxbridge.

"These statistics demonstrate the gulf between the schools and colleges which deliver for their students - and those which do not," said Schools Minister David Laws.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: Nursery Nurse and Room Leader - Hackney

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a qualified childcare p...

QAA: Independent member of the QAA Board of Directors

Expenses paid in connection with duties: QAA: QAA is inviting applications to ...

AER Teachers: PPA TEACHER/MENTOR

£27000 - £37000 per annum: AER Teachers: THE SCHOOL: This is a large and vibra...

AER Teachers: EYFS Teacher

£27000 - £37000 per annum: AER Teachers: EYFS TEACHERAn 'Outstanding' Primary ...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones