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Last Updated: Saturday, 27 March, 2004, 11:35 GMT
School inspections too tough say heads
By Angela Harrison
BBC News Online education staff at the SHA conference in Harrogate

Anne Welsh, SHA President
"More schools are failing," says Anne Welsh

More schools could fail inspections this year because of changes to the system, head teachers are warning.

Tougher standards on teaching brought in last September mean more schools in England have been classed as failing, say the Secondary Heads Association.

The organisation's president, Anne Welsh, said her own school in Newcastle, which was inspected 18 months ago might have failed under the new regime despite the improvements which had been made there.

"It's clear that more schools are failing, and that can't be good," she said at SHA's annual conference in Harrogate.

"We know that the standard expected has been raised and consequently more schools have been classed as failing.

"And that's in spite of all the other evidence that schools are improving.

"I may well have been one of the heads asked to leave my school if I had been Ofsteded a year later."

Deliberate or not?

In the past, schools where 20% of lessons were unsatisfactory, were classed as failing.

Under new rules brought in September, schools can be classed as failing if 10% of teaching is said to be unsatisfactory.

"Last month Ofsted released figures showing there hads been a big jump in the number of struggling schools.

In the autumn term, 90 were told they needed "special measures", compared with 54 in autumn 2002. "

Delegates at the conference asked Schools minister David Miliband about the issue.

Jane Mann, a teacher from The King Edward School in Northumberland said: "Is it a deliberate policy or a by-product of a badly thought-out framework?"

Mr Miliband adopted a wait-and-see attitude.

Schools minister David Miliband
Let's wait and see, said David Miliband
"We have had the figures for one term. Let's see what happens in the second term," he told delegates.

"David Bell (England's chief inspector of schools) was clear that the national average of satisfactory lessons is 5%."

General Secretary of SHA John Dunford told delegates: "The bar has been raised when we weren't looking."

The organisation is pleased with the proposals for what are becoming known as "lighter-touch" inspections, with more emphasis on schools' own evaluations of how they are doing but wants to see the abolition of some terms used to describe struggling schools.

Labels such as "serious weakness" and "special measures" should be dropped and terms such as "schools causing concern" or "subject to re-visit" should be used instead, he said.

They accept the need for accountability, but it must be a much slimmer system
John Dunford, SHA general secretary
The SHA has renewed its call for the abolition of league tables in England.

It also says the use of the benchmark of five good GCSEs as a performance indicator should be dropped because the exams will become less relevant in the forthcoming shake-up of education for 14 to 19 year olds.

The organisation is pressing for what it calls "intelligent accountability", where schools are given more control over their targets in a less bureaucratic system.

It says there has been a "substantial move in government thinking in the direction of intelligent accountability", and that the government has adopted many suggestions put forward by its members in the past decade.

General Secretary John Dunford said: "School leaders want to raise standards in a climate that encourages innovation, decentralisation and autonomy.

"They accept the need for accountability, but it must be a much slimmer system than we have now."

Teachers drafted in for Ofsted
19 Mar 04  |  Education
The inspector's viewpoint
10 Feb 04  |  Education
School failure rate 'increasing'
16 Jan 04  |  Education
Ofsted to name struggling schools
06 Feb 04  |  Education

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