We must improve our standards

Published on Sunday, 14 October 2012 23:49
Written by Sir Michael Wilshaw

I was a teacher and a head teacher for 44 years so it should be no surprise to readers that I have a passion for teaching and an aspiration for all pupils to receive, at the very least, a good education

Children and young people have just one chance of a good education, yet today over two million pupils attend 6,000 schools that are less than good. Take a typical 'good' secondary school and a typical school judged 'satisfactory' at its last inspection. In the good school, many more of the high achieving pupils from primary school are likely to achieve an A or B grade in maths and English GCSE.

This is why, in September 2012, Ofsted scrapped 'satisfactory' from the Ofsted school inspection framework thus raising the educational bar and challenging the education system to do better.

The new inspection framework expects schools that need to improve to do so within four years to a good standard.  That brings with it a challenge for Ofsted, it is not right that we raise the bar and leave heads without the professional support they need so we are changing too.  From January 2013 Ofsted will have a regionalised structure supported by eight Regional Directors.  We are putting in place a structure to better promote improvement through inspection and to ensure the right amount of time is spent giving support to schools when they need it.

Ofsted will also be more proactive in supporting and challenging schools to secure the necessary improvements. Her Majesty's Inspectors will be assigned to schools that require improvement to ensure they progress to a good standard. No later than four years after they have been judged to require improvement, inspectors will make a decision about whether the school has improved sufficiently or should be placed in special measures.

Ofsted's Regional Directors will, with the support of their local inspectors, monitor challenge and support institutions between inspections so they can make the necessary improvements.  In addition, our Regional Directors will assess whether local authorities, diocesan authorities, academy chains and federations have adequate oversight of performance and are intervening in inverse proportion to success.

We know that inspections are crucial to driving better performance. Demonstrating the need for improvement is often the spur that brings about a change but we also know that local knowledge and facilitating peer to peer learning is equally important.  So while each school is unique they also have common features of their journey to good that other schools can learn from. Regional Directors will make sure this good practice is shared.

I make no apology for setting the bar high.  Standards in education have improved massively since I first started teaching in 1968, but when a third of all pupils are leaving primary school without being able to read, write or do maths well we cannot be complacent. We clearly still have work to do.  We need to worry that many other countries are outperforming England in English and maths. We need to worry that almost half of all young people under the age of 30 who do not have level 2 qualifications are unemployed.  This situation has deteriorated faster in England compared to our international competitors.  As a result we know these young people are likely to face a lifetime of poverty and unemployment.  We need to do better and giving young people the opportunities that come with a good education, is in my book, a good place to start.

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