Schools to be marked on pupil performance

Teaching standards: Rules for inspectors changed to put more emphasis on what goes on in the classroom
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The Independent Online
JUDITH JUDD

Education Editor

Teaching standards in schools will be graded from one to seven and the results published in inspection reports, according to new rules published yesterday.

The rules for inspectors from the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) have been produced after complaints that inspectors demand too much paperwork and spend too much time examining the way in which schools are organised.

Reports under the new system will state the proportion of teaching that is very good (grades 1 and 2), the proportion that is satisfactory or better (grades 1 to 4), and that which is less than satisfactory (grades 5 to 7). There will still be no overall grade for schools.

Chris Woodhead, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector, said "We believe very strongly that inspections must focus on standards of pupils and the quality of teaching in schools." The new guidance "is better than the old because it is shorter, sharper and goes to the heart of the matter: the classroom".

Inspectors will have to give examples of successful and unsuccessful teaching methods that they have observed in a school. The new rules say that judgements about schools' management should be based on the effect it has on raising standards. Inspectors should establish whether heads know what is going on in classrooms and are taking steps to improve it.

Mr Woodhead will announce shortly the procedures for implementing the Prime Minister's plan for reporting the best and the worst teachers to the head after an inspection.

Under the present scheme, introduced three years ago, schools are inspected every four years by privatised teams of inspectors, and a team of experts may be sent in to take over schools that fail inspections. A school's overall performance will still be judged on its management, discipline and attendance, as well as its educational standards.

Mr Woodhead said that there were no plans to publish overall grades for schools. "It is a balance between giving parents as much information as we have - and bombarding people with too much statistical information."

All reports will have to contain pupils' achievements, measured against national targets and the schools' own targets. Inspectors will no longer try to measure pupils' potential - which has proved difficult - but will look at their progress compared with their previous performance. The emphasis in reporting achievements will be on the core subjects of English, maths and science.

Reports must be written in plain English and not according to a predetermined formula. Peter Matthews, head of Ofsted's quality assurance team, said: "Inspectors will be asked to make unequivocal judgements using appropriate adjectives. Reports have been criticised for being too vague and woolly."

Schools will not need to produce as many documents before the inspection. Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said the reduction in bureaucracy was welcome but added: "These inspections will continue to be a snapshot of what happens in our schools. There are no proposals for follow-up support and advice, an essential element previously provided by local authorities but which has been a casualty of the new system."

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