Each year Ofsted publishes a report – a ‘state of the nation’ summary about education in the country. The inspectorate’s annual report is a useful barometer that shows what Ofsted is thinking and feeling. It’s often a strong indicator about what schools need to be mindful of if they face an inspection in the coming months.
The key findings from the most recent annual report echo some concerns that have already been raised by others in education. Ofsted warns that the leadership capacity that the profession has to bring about school improvement is wearing thin. Indeed, it is in a worrying state and does not exist at all in some places.
Much is made by the government of the fact that the number of schools judged by Ofsted to be ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ has continued to rise. The report states that 86% of schools were found to be ‘good’ or better at their last inspection. However, it also notes that there are now almost 500 schools in England that have been judged as ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’ in every inspection since 2005, describing these schools as ‘stuck’. The annual report also highlights the worrying point that some children may have been educated in a ‘failing school’ all the time they have been in secondary education. Ofsted believes that the country needs a greater number of ‘outstanding’ schools and school leaders to support these ‘stuck’ schools in their drive out of their continued cycle of failure
Key statistics from the annual report
The report shows that the number of good and outstanding schools has fallen slightly, from 87% to 86%. However, even though this headline figure looks fairly impressive, it doesn’t really show the full picture. Up to August 2018, 92% of special schools were rated as good or outstanding in inspections. In primary schools the figure stands at 87%. However, only 75% of secondaries were judged to be good or outstanding.
Putting a different spin on things, saying that 25% of secondary schools (or 1 in 4) require improvement or are inadequate, sounds far less impressive.
What does the future hold?
Ofsted’s annual report summarises what the inspectorate has seen in schools over the last 12 months, but it also looks to the future too. It acknowledges that the inspection powers that Ofsted has are not entirely keeping pace with the way the education landscape is evolving and changing. One such area is the assessment of multi-academy trusts (MATs).
The inspectorate says it will continue to push the Department for Education to enable Ofsted to make full inspections of MATs. This is seen as necessary now that MATs take increased responsibility for a growing number of important decisions about the running of schools, from financial management to curriculum choices. Ofsted argues that not being able to directly inspect multi-academy trusts means that the government and parents are potentially being deprived of important information about the current educational landscape. The inspectorate will continue to lobby the DfE for change but intends to do its best to circumnavigate the problem by conducting ‘batch inspections’ of schools in the same MAT over the course of one or two terms. This approach will enable Ofsted to evaluate the overall work of MATs, at least to some extent.