Leading article: Missing the grade

Related Topics

It was Christine Gilbert's first report as chief inspector of schools, and the last Ofsted report to be published while Tony Blair is at No. 10. As such, its conclusions should be chastening. The legacy of this Prime Minister, who promised that his top three priorities would be "education, education, education", is a system in which more than half the country's secondary schools are failing to provide pupils with education of a good standard.

Nine years ago, when Mr Blair first made his commitment, it would have been the stuff of nightmares to suggest that this would be the final word of the education standards watchdog on his two-and-a-half terms in office. There are factors that can be offered in mitigation. This year's report covers the first 12 months of a new - and tougher - inspection regime, which was introduced to reflect improving standards. As Ms Gilbert observed, however, the bar has not been raised to a point where schools should not be able to succeed.

So what has gone wrong? The chief inspector put her finger on two key problems: poor leadership and poor teaching - which are pretty basic components of school quality. Clearly both need to be addressed. One reason why leadership is poor is that fewer teachers now aspire to headships. This is partly because pay for classroom teachers has improved, but it is also because a headship increasingly entails management and paperwork rather than the contact with pupils that drew them to the profession in the first place.

Perversely, the poor quality of teaching might also be a consequence of higher pay, in that the package of pay and conditions on offer may attract some who regard teaching as a job rather than a vocation. The problem may be exacerbated, however, by the number of teachers required to teach subjects in which they are not qualified because of a shortage of maths and science teachers. One solution might be a differential pay structure that offers incentives for those opting to teach shortage subjects.

But one factor conspicuously absent from yesterday's report is surely also to blame for this situation: the Government's repeated failure to do more than tinker with secondary school curriculum reform. Ministers pay lip-service to better vocational education as a way of keeping the less academically inclined teenagers involved at school. But they rejected the recommendations of the Tomlinson's inquiry that would have brought vocational and academic education into a single diploma. Since then little has been done to give good vocational education a higher profile.

The brutal truth is that too many teenagers are bored with what they are taught. This, above all, is what lies behind Ofsted's conclusion that they are not receiving a good education.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page


General Election 2015: The SNP and an SMC (Salmond-Murdoch Conspiracy)

Matthew Norman
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk