Page last updated at 14:13 GMT, Monday, 19 May 2008 15:13 UK

Inspectors push 'stalled' schools

Christine Gilbert
Ofsted chief, Christine Gilbert, says standards need to improve

School standards in England are "stalled" says education watchdog Ofsted, as it announces inspection changes to target "coasting" schools.

Ofsted chief Christine Gilbert says it is "unacceptable that 20% of pupils go from primary to secondary not fully functional in literacy and numeracy".

Ms Gilbert proposes to focus more on schools that are not improving, even if they are deemed satisfactory.

Teachers' unions say it is still "more punitive than supportive".

The proposal to create a more varied inspection regime, outlined by Ms Gilbert earlier this year, will see a more light-touch approach to successful schools and more regular inspections for those who are struggling or failing to make sufficient progress.

Too large a gap

It will also emphasise the need for attention to the progress of particular groups of children - such as the most able and those who are at risk of falling behind.

"If education in England is going to compare favourably with the best in the world, standards need to improve. In fact they have stalled," says the report from Ofsted.

"Not only that, but the gap between outcomes for specific groups of children and young people and the majority remains too large."

The proposals for a more tailored inspection system also raise the idea of "drop in" inspections, carried out without any warning.

At present, schools get at least two days' warning, but inspectors say that parents are supportive of the idea that schools should face instant inspections, so that they could be seen without any time for preparation.

The acting leader of the National Union of Teachers, Christine Blower, said that there was no benefit to such no-notice inspections.

'Russian roulette'

"Schools will feel that an inspection visit is the equivalent of Russian roulette, and inspectors could visit when half the school is on a school trip."

Nansi Ellis, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' head of education policy, said that "Ofsted needs to decide whether it is going to offer genuine support to schools to improve the education they offer, or whether its inspections will continue to be seen as punitive".

Under the proposals, outstanding and good schools will face a more hands-off approach, with a "health check" within three years and an inspection within six years.

Satisfactory schools which are improving will have an inspection within three years of the most recent full inspection.

But satisfactory schools deemed to be of more concern will have a monitoring visit within 12-18 months of the most recent full inspection and an inspection within three years of the most recent full inspection.

And if they have not begun showing improvements they could be downgraded to "inadequate".


Inadequate schools will have a monitoring visit within six to eight months of the most recent full inspection and an inspection after a year.

Those schools in special measures will have two or three monitoring visits a year following the most recent full inspection and an inspection two years after the most recent full inspection.

These plans are proposed for September 2009, with a consultation running to August 2008 and trials of the new arrangements until spring next year.

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families, said Ofsted's close monitoring was paying off and standards had risen hugely over the past 10 years, but there was more to be done.

"That's why we are putting a stronger emphasis on phonics in early reading teaching and on mental arithmetic in maths.

"We are rolling out intensive one-to-one support to those children who are really struggling with reading and writing.

"And next month we will set out the next phase of our proposals to raise standards further in secondary schools."

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