From education to employment

Sector Response to Amanda Spielman’s first Ofsted Annual Report

Amanda Spielman, OFSTED Chief Inspector

Following last week’s apprenticeship non-levy outcome and today’s reporting by Ofsted that 80% of independent providers are good or outstanding based on their most recent inspections,

david hughes 100 x100David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, said:

Ofsted’s culture and the taken approach to colleges have both changed markedly in the last year under the new Chief Inspector. We have experienced much more constructive and understanding dialogue and now have a stronger relationship with Ofsted. We are seeing a much more nuanced and thoughtful set of issues emerging in this year’s annual report.

It is therefore a shame that the Chief Inspector’s report was not able to consider the many inspections this term, in which more and more colleges have improved their grades. The year the report refers to was one of great turbulence for colleges, with Area Reviews, many mergers and enormous re-structuring to cope with the impacts of funding cuts. The college sector is now emerging confidently and successfully from that period and recent inspection results show that.

My concern going forward is that the funding cuts have made it enormously challenging to manage and lead colleges successfully. The 22% lower funding per student for 16-19 year olds than for 11-16 year olds has no logic and results in tough decisions being made about the curriculum offer, breadth of learning and support which students receive. It is of great concern that this might begin to impact on the quality of the experience for college students.

MarkDawe 100x100AELP CEO Mark Dawe said:

Today we should be celebrating the Chief Inspector’s confirmation that so many training providers and colleges are delivering high quality learning to employers and individuals.  Instead we are angry that a significant proportion of them may not be trading in a few months’ time because of an arbitrary decision to cull the market when employers will soon have the opportunity to decide for themselves which providers should benefit from the apprenticeship reforms.

Justine Greening’s own social mobility agenda will be seriously undermined if she disregards the Ofsted ratings in favour of the ESFA’s procurement decisions, leaving parts of the country without specialist apprenticeship provision in key sectors.  She needs to act fast before lasting damage is done and the government’s 3 million apprenticeship target becomes an embarrassment.

KevinCourtney100x100Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

The Ofsted report by Amanda Spielman is one of the most balanced Ofsted reports we have seen. The Chief Inspector acknowledges the reality that schools in challenging circumstances have ‘unstable leadership teams, teacher turnover and difficulties recruiting’. She points to the fact that becoming an academy isn’t a silver bullet – many of the schools in those challenging circumstances have been academised and even changed academy provider without the school reaching the Ofsted ‘good’ category. Amanda Spielman acknowledges the hard work of the teachers in those schools and acknowledges that these schools need long term support, which she points out is not available.

Teachers however would like her to go further. Amanda Spielman says that ‘schools shouldn’t compete about how many pupil premium children they have, but just get on with school improvement’. Well that is what teachers are and have been doing; it is the central obsession in their professional lives. Ofsted should speak truth to power. The defining characteristics of the schools Ofsted is pointing to that haven’t improved is that they are drawing ‘high proportions of their children from deprived areas’ and have ‘higher than average proportions of children with SEND and white British pupils from low-income backgrounds’.

Ofsted as the Chief Inspector of Education should take Government to task over this. Teachers can do what they can do within schools but it is Government that is missing child poverty reduction targets, presiding over increases in relative poverty and failing to produce a decent industrial strategy. It is the Government that is cutting funding to schools and missing teacher recruitment targets. An education inspectorate worth its salt, if it were truly independent, would be making these points to Government in their report.

We are pleased to see Ofsted agreeing with us that there is too much focus on test results rather than learning. However, again, Ofsted is failing to speak truth to power. It is the Government accountability regime that is leading to those behaviours in schools – and Ofsted should call out the Government over that, acknowledging its own responsibility within the system too.

Stephen Evans LW 100x100Stephen Evans, Chief Executive, Learning and Work Institute, said:

Ofsted’s report is a balanced one. It recognises the challenges the sector faces, the signs of improvement, and the areas where further action is needed. For example, while funding isn’t everything, it’s clearly true that levels and security of funding make a difference. Similarly Amanda Spielman is right that Ofsted will need to be watchful and decisive in ensuring the quality of Apprenticeship provision. 

She’s also right that the current approach to English and Maths isn’t delivering the desired results. We need to maintain a high ambition for literacy and numeracy, but find multiple routes to that ambition and far greater action to reverse the declines in the number of adults taking part in such learning. Overall, the report echoes our call for a higher ambition for skills, backed up by funding, quality and access, and moves the debate on from previous years.

This year’s annual report finds the overall quality of education and care in England is improving, but areas of persistent underperformance remain.

Launching her first Ofsted Annual Report as Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman said the life chances of the vast majority of young people in 2017 are the best they ever have been:

  • 94% of early years providers are now rated good or outstanding
  • 90% of primary schools and 79% of secondary schools are good or outstanding
  • 80% of further education and skills providers of are good or outstanding
  • 83% of children’s homes are now good and outstanding
  • more local authority children’s services are on a path to improvement

However, she stressed that there are still areas of persistent under-performance in the education and care systems. It is here that policy-makers, professionals and Ofsted need to direct their support to improve outcomes for children and young people.

Speaking to an audience of education and social care professionals, local authority representatives and policy experts in Westminster,

Amanda Spielman said:

Our collective mission – and by that everyone involved in education and care – should be to create a society where every young person, regardless of birth or background, can achieve their full potential. Everything I see in my job, looking at the work of thousands of children’s homes, colleges, schools and nurseries shows me that isn’t an idle pipe dream.

In fact, the areas of concern identified in today’s report are some of the last remaining barriers that stand in our way. Tackling them will not be easy. But the prize of doing so could be great – a country that is both caring and bold, innovative but unified, aspirational and at the same time fair.

To help policy-makers tackle those barriers, today’s report identifies a small group of schools that have not improved over many years, including around 130 where under-performance has stretched for up to a decade. These schools share some similar characteristics, including unstable leadership, high staff turnover and difficulty recruiting. Many have high proportions of pupils from deprived areas and above average proportions of pupils with special education needs and/or disabilities (SEND).

These schools have all received considerable attention and investment from external agencies, but none of these interventions has worked. Yet schools in similar circumstances are achieving well, showing that improvement is possible.

The report also highlights problems in capacity within the school-led system. The best school leaders and strongest academy trusts are spread too thinly. They cannot provide all the support needed to help other schools improve. The Chief Inspector made clear that there is a challenge for both policy-makers and the education system to break down ivory towers and ensure that the best schools and leaders are supporting those in need.

Amanda Spielman continued:

There is no doubt that the leadership challenge facing some schools is great. But progress is possible and we should all be wary of using the makeup of a school community as an excuse for underperformance.

I do find myself frustrated with the culture of ‘disadvantage one-upmanship’ that has emerged in some places. Fixating on all the things holding schools back can distract us all from working on the things that take them forward. Schools with all ranges of children can and do succeed. Where this is difficult, what is needed is greater support and leadership from within the system. That means making sure the system has the capacity to provide this support.

And this isn’t about just about incremental ‘interventions’ or ‘challenge’. Good schools teach a strong curriculum effectively, and they do it in an orderly and supportive environment: getting this right is the core job of any school. That is what we need to help these problematic schools to deliver.

Ofsted’s commitment to being a force for improvement means focusing attention on those areas that are not yet good enough. Evidence shows that this helps drive up standards of practice in these areas.

Other areas of concern identified in the report include:

  • An increasing number of conservative religious schools deliberately flouting British values and equalities law. Illegal ‘schools’ are also being created in order to avoid teaching fundamental values of democracy, mutual tolerance and respect.
  • Weaknesses in the statutory framework for the early years foundation stage as a guide for children’s learning in Reception Year. Schools that are best at preparing children for Year 1 are going beyond the framework and setting more challenging expectations, with an emphasis on reading and maths.
  • The apprenticeship levy is raising a substantial amount of money to fund training. Without adequate scrutiny we will risk repeating the mistakes of the past – attracting cowboy operators that are not committed to high quality learning.
  • Domestic abuse is the most common factor in the lives of children who need social care services. But more emphasis needs to be placed on tackling perpetrators and understanding what works to stop abusive behaviour.
  • Secure children’s homes are doing well for children and young people. But young offender institutions and secure training centres are sometimes extremely poor, closing down opportunities for rehabilitation of juvenile offenders.
  • Some children and young people needing SEND support are having a very poor experience of the education system. And some parents have been pressured to keep their children at home because leaders say they can’t meet their needs. This is unacceptable.

Over the next 12 months, Ofsted will continue to act as a force for improvement. New inspections of local authority children’s services will begin in January, with a greater focus on catching areas before they fall. Work will also get underway to develop a new education inspection framework for 2019, building on recent findings and with a particular focus on the curriculum. And in FE and skills, Ofsted will closely monitor the quality of training to make sure learners get the entitlement they deserve.

The Department for Education is doing large amounts to raise the educational attainment of pupils throughout the country. Latest Ofsted figures show 87% of children are in good or outstanding schools compared to 66% in 2010, and our National Funding Formula will mean that all schools will see a funding increase next year, with each school getting £3,500 per primary school pupil and £4,800 per secondary school pupil as a minimum.

The department has also committed £280 million to a Strategic School Improvement Fund, which is designed to create a self-improving school system by sharing best practice between academies and maintained schools, targeting the areas that need it most. On top of this, a £75 million Teaching and Leadership Innovation Fund is investing in projects to improve the continuing professional development offer for teachers and leaders in disadvantaged areas, as well as a £42 million Teacher Development Premium Pilot which was announced in the Budget.

And before children begin school, their new Opportunities Area programme will invest £72 million in 12 specific areas where social mobility needs raising, to help improve the life chance of disadvantaged children.

Nick GibbSchool Standards Minister Nick Gibb said:

As the Chief Inspector says, the quality of education and care for young people is better than ever, as evidenced by the nine out of 10 schools now rated good or outstanding and 1.9 million more children being taught in these schools than in 2010. Standards are rising in both primary and secondary schools.

The report recognises the widespread good practice and continual improvement across the system but we know there is more to do to tackle consistent underperformance. We are targeting the areas that need the most support through our Opportunity Areas and by investing £280 million over the next two years to target resources at the schools most in need to improve school performance and deliver more good school places. Having excellent teachers in our most challenging schools is also key to school improvement, which is why we’re investing £75million in teachers’ professional development and announced a further £42 million for training in the Budget.

We will continue to raise standards through our rigorous new curriculum so every young person has the opportunity to gain the knowledge and skills they need to get on in life, and ensure Britain is fit for the future.

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