ASCL rejects HMCI’s assertion that improvement in secondary schools has stalled

10 December 2014

Responding to the commentary ahead of the release of the annual report of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools Sir Michael Wilshaw later today, ASCL General Secretary Brian Lightman said:

“Ofsted’s annual report backs up the fact that we have the highest proportion ever of good and outstanding schools. Even when measured against the very high bar we have now, 71% are good or outstanding. Those schools are educating many hundreds of thousands of young people who are benefitting from a great education.

“ASCL rejects the assertion that improvement in secondary schools has stalled. Ofsted has failed to recognise that overall attainment by 16 year olds is effectively capped by the current GCSE awarding process. As student attainment is the critical element in the Ofsted grading, it is no surprise that the proportion of schools graded good or better is relatively unchanged.

“While we know there remains room for improvement, we must recognise the journey that secondary schools have been on. In this period of massive reform, when Ofsted inspection has become even more rigorous, secondary schools should be congratulated for their achievements. There is no complacency in our secondary schools. Instead there is a steely determination to continue to raise standards. 

“The report contains ample evidence of excellent practice around the country. I have spoken with hundreds of secondary school leaders this year and I am in no doubt of the hard work and commitment they and the teachers in their schools have demonstrated in a period of unprecedented and rapid change.

“It is good news that primary schools are improving rapidly and secondary schools can build on this. Pupils who make the transition to secondary schools with high levels of attainment have the immediate advantage of being able to access the curriculum and progress more rapidly. 

“Inspection is an important and necessary way of holding schools to account. Rather than creating a culture of fear or blame, inspection should inform the school improvement process by giving school leaders an external perspective of how they can continue to progress. Ofsted does not have a monopoly over ambition. It is time for school leaders and teachers to be trusted and empowered to transform our education service.

“Ofsted itself has committed to implementing significant changes in the next year that will improve the inspection system. A fair, consistent and proportionate inspection service, which is fit for a self-improving education system of the 21st century, is a priority for us all.  We are glad that Ofsted is tackling its own challenges and we will work with them in doing so. All of us stand to benefit if we are able to get the reform of Ofsted right and future-ready.”