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North education chief criticises Ofsted

A NORTH East education leader has criticised a report which reveals almost half the schools in the country inspected this academic year have been rated “satisfactory” or “inadequate”.

Whitley Bay High School
Whitley Bay High School

A NORTH East education leader has criticised a report which reveals almost half the schools in the country inspected this academic year have been rated “satisfactory” or “inadequate”.

Last night, Dr John Dunford, a former head at Durham Johnston School in Durham City, described the changes made to the Ofsted inspection regime in September as unhelpful.

Yesterday, Ofsted published outcomes of inspections carried out during the autumn 2009 and spring 2010 terms.

At the start of the academic year, the official schools’ watchdog made the inspection criteria tougher and Dr Dunford warned then that schools would fall down the rankings.

Yesterday, schools minister Lord Hill said: “With almost half of schools inspected since September judged as only satisfactory or inadequate, it’s clear there is urgent need for real reform.”

But Dr Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), believes the findings are misleading and fears schools could suffer as a result.

“It must be made clear we are not comparing like with like when looking at inspection grades from this year and previous years,” he said.

“Ofsted has made no secret that it has raised the bar for schools being inspected under the new framework. It especially makes it more difficult for challenging schools to be graded well, even when the pupils are making good progress.

“The fact there are 3% fewer schools rated as outstanding does not mean school standards have fallen, but rather that Ofsted is using different criteria to judge those schools.

“Some schools will not be able to achieve an outstanding grade, regardless of how good they are, purely because of the criteria imposed.

“Schools now have to do even more to be rated outstanding. A school that was graded good in the previous framework could well be downgraded to satisfactory under the new one, even though it is offering a better quality of education.”

He added: “Of course we want schools to keep striving for higher standards, but it is not helpful to parents or schools when the basis for the grading system changes every four years.”

According to the data, nearly one in 10 schools nationally were declared inadequate in the autumn and spring terms and 47% of schools were judged to be either inadequate or satisfactory.

Throughout the 2008/09 school year, 4% of schools in England were declared inadequate – meaning this has more than doubled in just two terms.

Of those declared inadequate, 5% were given a notice to improve and 4% were put into special measures – the Ofsted term for a failing school, which leads to it receiving more frequent inspections.

During the two terms, 195 schools in the North East were inspected by Ofsted.

Regional figures are roughly in line with national data, with 10%, or 19 schools, rated inadequate and 35%, or 69, declared satisfactory.

At the other end of the scale 85 schools, 44%, were rated as good and 22 schools, 11%, achieved a rating of outstanding.

Jarrow School in South Tyneside was given a notice to improve last autumn and Walbottle Village Primary School in Newcastle was placed in special measures this spring.

The school blamed “unfortunate timing” for the report’s outcome, as staff and pupils were in the middle of moving premises when inspectors arrived.

Walbottle Village Primary was criticised for poor leadership, which inspectors said had led to a “decline in attainment”.

Nicola Nelson-Taylor, head at Beech Hill Primary in West Denton, is a National Leader of Education and was appointed as interim executive headteacher at Walbottle to turn around its fortunes.

A number of North East schools have bucked the trend during the last two terms and moved up the inspection scale.

Whitley Bay High School in North Tyneside achieved a clean sweep of outstanding grades in its Ofsted report this spring – making it the first secondary in England to do so this academic year.

The school’s chair of governors, Paul Mitchell, said: “For Whitley Bay High School to achieve outstanding in all 31 categories under this new and rigorous regime truly sets the school apart.” Meanwhile, Richard Coates Church of England Middle School in Ponteland, Northumberland, was rated outstanding by both Ofsted and the SIAS (Statutory Inspection of Anglican Schools). Greenside Primary School, Gateshead, was rated outstanding in its spring report – just four years after it was deemed failing.

Ofsted says under the new regime, it is focusing more on weaker schools, with good and outstanding schools inspected less frequently.

Ofsted chief inspector Christine Gilbert said: “Greater involvement for senior staff in the inspection process and more inspection time in the classroom means the new framework is helping ensure schools are better able to understand their weaknesses and areas in need of development.”

 

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