Percentage of good and outstanding schools continues to fall – DfE says it’s a triumph

Janet Downs's picture

 ‘…standards in our schools have risen significantly since 2010 - with 85% judged to be good or outstanding compared to only 68% in 2010.’   Department for Education press release 29 March 2019.

This sound bite is regurgitated ad nauseam by ministers and their mouthpieces.  But the boast has had to be amended as the proportion of good or better schools is on a downward trend.

Newly-released Ofsted data shows a fall from 87% of schools being good or outstanding in 2017 at their most recent inspection to 85% at the end of December 2018.

The ‘slight decline’ is ‘still very positive’ when compared with 2010, the DfE says.

The DfE attributes the rise in the proportion of good or better schools since 2010 to post-2010 reforms.  But this is disingenuous.    The largest two year increase, eight percentage points from 69% to 77%, happened between August 2012 and August 2014 when ‘reforms’ had had little time to have much effect. 

The proportion continued to rise: ten percentage points over four years before dropping two percentage points by the end of 2018. 

Two percentage points isn’t much, of course, and it would be premature to declare ‘peak Ofsted’.  But it should be remembered that the proportion of good or outstanding schools is bolstered by the inspection exemption given to schools judged outstanding at their most recent inspection.  They will not be inspected unless problems, such as a fall in exam results, are detected.  But some of these schools haven’t been inspected for ten years or more and the number is rising.   Surely these are past their ‘use by’ date?

Disquiet about obsolete outstanding gradings appear to be justified by Ofsted statistics.  102 exempt outstanding schools had a full inspection between 1 September and 31 December 2018.   Just 12 (12%) of these 102 exempt outstanding schools remained outstanding. 50 (49%) were downgraded to good, 35 (34%) dropped to requires improvement and five (5%) declined to inadequate.

The exemption given to outstanding schools must be scrapped. 

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Roger Titcombe's picture
Sat, 30/03/2019 - 11:01

Not only is the reduction in 'outstanding' schools a good thing, if educational standards are really to rise then all four of the OfSTED categories need to be abolished completely.

There is little evidence that ‘outstanding’ schools are more effective at anything other than attracting the most cognitively able students and deterring the least able. They are therefore an engine for increasing social inequality.

Remember the ‘killer fact’ revealed by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) that OfSTED ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ schools are no more effective than ‘inadequate’ schools in closing the gap between the Free School Meals children they can’t avoid admitting and their more able (and wealthier) peers.

So the aim of The Sutton Trust of enabling more FSM children to get into ‘outstanding’ schools, will achieve nothing for them.

It is easy to understand the concern of the political left with reducing inequality. I support it, but it requires taking ‘markets’ out of the provision of providing essential services like education if it is to be achieved. Finland shows the way.

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