Children now have the best chance ever of going to a good school

11 December 2013

Following the release of HMCI’s Annual Report today, ASCL welcomed the findings and said it is good to see that the HMCI recognises a continuing improvement in our schools. Commenting on the report, Malcolm Trobe, ASCL’s Deputy General Secretary, said:

“Children in England now have the best chance they have ever had of going to a good school. Schools have improved further since 2011-12 and we are delighted to note that as stated in the HMCI’s report, 70 per cent of schools were judged outstanding for leadership which is critically important for improving teaching and achievement. This is a higher proportion than last year, and indicates that school leadership is responding fast to new challenges. The report states further that of the secondary school inspections carried out in the summer term, one in five achieved the highest leadership grade of outstanding.

“We know that further improvements are needed in some schools but it should be recognised that we have a good and improving education service. School leaders are not complacent and will continue to work with their staff to raise further the standards in our schools. The ultimate objective must be to have every local community served by a good school and it is important that those schools that are working in difficult or challenging circumstances are given the necessary support and encouragement to continue to raise standards. We agree that it is important to get high-quality school leaders at all levels to work in schools with challenging circumstances. We are pleased that the government is implementing plans to do this and we are engaged in consultation with them on this project.

“School leaders recognise that good behaviour in their schools is essential in creating a good learning environment. It was pleasing to note that, of the large number of secondary schools inspected last term 27 per cent were graded outstanding for behaviour – a clear indication of the importance that teachers place on  good student behaviour. It was only last week that the PISA study highlighted that behaviour is one of the strengths of our schools with an above average rating, so we must not draw an inference from the HMCI report that behaviour in our secondary schools is poor – because it clearly is not.

“HMCI refers to a postcode lottery but this is also true for school funding where there are huge disparities in funding levels around the country. There are many parts of the country where the funding is very low and this makes it much more difficult for schools in these areas to improve as they are unable to fund the necessary strategies. It will be important that the Secretary of State addresses these inequities in the development of the National Fair Funding Formula.

“Another issue that needs to be addressed is teacher supply; in many parts of the country it is very difficult to recruit teachers of core subjects, particularly maths. Without these teachers it will be very difficult for schools to raise standards. It is important that the government addresses the issue of teacher supply as a matter of urgency.

“Schools and school leaders are addressing the challenges of raising performance, with 9/10 schools identified as requiring improvement making the progress required of them. This is a tribute to our school leaders working often under extreme pressure, and speaks of their commitment to their schools and pupils. While ASCL agrees with Ofsted about the urgency of improving secondary schools in the areas of the country identified as having low performing secondary schools, it is critically important to identify and address the challenges these schools face. These include especially low funding levels and difficulty attracting teachers. National initiatives are required to help tackle these problems. Teacher recruitment problems outside the main cities are getting worse, not better.

“To improve a school that is currently in difficulties needs leadership at all levels. Leadership by the headteacher at the top of the school is crucially important but they cannot do this on their own. The ‘hero head’ model of leadership is outdated; what is needed is distributed leadership with outstanding leaders in middle management as well as in the senior team to improve standards in our schools.”