By David Bell
Chief Inspector of Schools for England
David Bell applauds the efforts of this year's most successful schools
In my latest annual report on the state of education and care in England, I made the point that some schools were little better than mediocre and that around 10% of schools were not making enough progress between inspections.
As you would expect, much was made of these comments when my report was published earlier this term.
These important issues need to be highlighted, debated and ultimately dealt with.
But we must not forget that the majority of schools in England are good. And many of these are not just good but outstanding, providing their pupils with an excellent quality of education.
So, it gives me great pleasure, as Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools, to publish my annual list of outstanding schools and colleges.
The latest list highlights the 457 schools and colleges across England that were found to be highly effective in their inspections in 2004-05.
Many schools face difficult and challenging circumstances. What counts is how well schools tackle the issues they face. They should not settle for mediocrity
These include 421 schools, 33 further education colleges and the further education provision in three higher education institutions.
They stand out amongst the 2,878 inspections that were carried out in 2004-05.
I congratulate the head teachers, principals, teachers, governors and, of course, the pupils and students in all these schools and colleges.
In all the schools on the list, the pupils' achievement and quality of education were excellent or very good. They were invariably well led and had no important weaknesses.
The work in further education colleges is often diverse and complex. The colleges in the list provide a high standard of education and training across this range of work.
'Best of the best'
There are schools and colleges on the list that must be recognised as consistently high achievers and the best of the best.
Twenty four schools, including Camden School for Girls, in Kentish Town, which I will be visiting on Wednesday, and St Thomas More School, in North Shields, have been recognised as outstanding in three consecutive Ofsted inspections over the last 13 years.
This double dozen of triple winners represents the very best in state education. And it is important to highlight another 78 schools and colleges which have been recognised twice.
All of these schools are characterised by strong, dynamic leadership and very good achievement which is brought about by the best of teaching.
Not only that, they have sustained their work over a long period of time, success that puts them on a par with the best businesses in the country.
There are also six schools on the list that have previously been subject to special measures, had serious weaknesses or been designated as underachieving by Ofsted.
It is a remarkable achievement for a school to come from this position to be highly effective.
This year's list includes all types of schools and colleges across England. There are primary, nursery and secondary schools and tertiary, further education and specialist colleges.
It may be a cliché but children only get one chance of schooling and it better be a good one
It is worth mentioning the nine pupil referral units (PRUs), such as Slough Activate, which are providing for some of our most challenging youngsters in a highly successful way.
This is what the report for Slough Activate says:
'The PRU is outstanding at 'reactivating' reluctant, challenging and disillusioned Year 11 trainees, who would otherwise not do well at schools. It is ahead of its time, a fine example of the new national reforms for 14 to 19-year-olds, and is an exemplary model.'
The schools on the list face all kinds of different circumstances. There are those, such as Shiremoor Primary School, near Newcastle, which face very challenging circumstances. This extract from the school's report says it all:
'From a low starting point, all children make very good progress and achieve very well in both their personal and academic work. Shiremoor Primary School makes a real difference to the lives of children and to the community as a whole.'
What all these different types of schools remind us of is that any school can be outstanding. There are no factors that preclude a school from being successful and offering the best education to its pupils.
New inspection system
Many schools face difficult and challenging circumstances. What counts is how well schools tackle the issues they face.
Schools should not be complacent. They should not settle for mediocrity. All schools should strive for the same high standards as those recognised in my list today.
There are some schools where all appears to be well, until you dig under the surface and find pockets of under-performance.
These schools need to recognise where they can do better and work towards offering their pupils the best possible education.
We should not rest until we are satisfied that all schools and colleges have reached the same level of those recognised today
I believe that our new inspection system, introduced at the beginning of this term, will focus on such schools and help them improve the education they offer their pupils.
Our new inspections are focused intensively on improvement - looking at what needs to improve and whether the school is up to it.
By inspecting every three years, rather than every six, we will also be in a better position to identify under-performance sooner rather than later.
It may be a cliché but children only get one chance of schooling and it better be a good one.
Pupils and students in the schools and colleges highlighted today can be assured that they are receiving the best possible education.
These schools and colleges deserve our highest praise for their efforts in offering the best start in life to the pupils and students they serve.
We should not rest until we are satisfied that all schools and colleges have reached the same level of those recognised today.