The head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has accused the best state schools of failing in their social responsibility to aid failing nearby schools. He has suggested that they be ‘required’ to do so in the future and threatened sanctions, such as stripping non-compliant schools of their ‘outstanding’ status. Examples of the type of aid that Sir Michael wishes to ‘encourage’ are free consultancy and the sharing top staff members.
As in other developed western nations there is continuing concern over slipping standards of state education in England, and for some time Ministers have been considering how they can tackle the ‘brain-drain’.
Some 1,310 primary schools are currently falling short of national targets in the three-Rs and a further 900 secondaries are failing to ensure at least half of pupils finish compulsory education with five decent GCSEs, including English and maths.
Sir Michael was appointed as the new head of the UK’s education standards office in January so it remains to be seen if he is serious about his new plan or simply to shock and garner some personal publicity.
Addressing the Policy Exchange think-tank in Westminster, Sir Michael suggested that outstanding schools could have their status downgraded for failing to take part.
He said: “How would you feel if you are an outstanding head, running an outstanding school, luxuriating in outstandingness, and someone came along to you and said ‘look we’ve got a struggling school half a mile away, would you mind supporting that by doing x, y, z?’, and you don’t feel like doing it?
“Your governors didn’t want to do it, but nevertheless there’s that sort of moral imperative to support the system.
“How would you feel if Ofsted came along and said you’re not going to get another outstanding judgment unless we see you?”
Sir Michael also spoke about enlisting the head teachers of the best schools in a form of ‘national service’ whereby they would inspect other schools. From his comments about there being no additional money it is likely that he intends this service to be provided gratis.
It has been pointed out by head teachers’ representatives however that being rated as outstanding doesn’t necessarily mean that a school has the resources to support an entire network of other schools.