UK’s Ofsted Results Bring Surprises for Dept. for Ed, Academies

Sir Michael Wilshaw, chief inspector of schools in England, has announced an unprecedented improvement in schools' Ofsted results — but these results have also brought disappointing news for the Department for Education and its favored academy schools.

A detailed analysis of inspection judgments from thousands of schools over the last academic year shows an uneven performance. The study shows that 12 of schools had the unfortunate experience of moving from "outstanding" at their previous inspection to "inadequate" during 2012-13, writes Warwick Mansell of The Guardian.

The Ofsted's data overall presents a mixed picture for academies. Among previously good or satisfactory schools, academies fared slightly better on average in their 2012-13 judgment than non-academies. But that position was reversed among schools previously rated in one of Ofsted's other two categories: outstanding or inadequate.

In total, higher proportions of academies saw their inspection judgment fall back in 2012-13 than did non-academies, while more non-academies than academies improved.

The three previously outstanding schools now in special measures include the Willows School Academy Trust, a special school in Hillingdon, North London, whose former head teacher is Charlie Taylor, currently serving as chief executive of the National College for Teaching and Leadership. The school's last inspection report shows that school leadership matters, as Taylor left to work for the DfE as its "behavior tsar" in 2011 and quality seems to have declined since.

"The best way to turn around [underperforming] schools is under the guidance of an experienced [academy] sponsor. Performance data at GCSE shows sponsored academies are improving faster than maintained schools," according to DfE.

The Assessment Reform Group is an influential group of 10 professors gathered together by Prof Mary James of Cambridge University, a former adviser to Michael Gove. The group has joined criticism of DfE plans to rank 11-year-olds nationally and they are saying that the proposals to tell pupils and their parents which of 10 performance "deciles" the child finished in would be "demotivating", while offering little useful information.

In a submission to the government's consultation on reforms to primary assessment and accountability, the group, backed by the British Educational Research Association, also rejects the suggestion that there should be baseline assessments for five- or seven-year-olds, saying teachers would have an incentive to depress scores to make pupils' progress look better afterwards.

Peter Downes, a former president of the Secondary Heads Association and a Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrat councilor, also criticized the department's plans to rank 11-year-olds nationally.

Downes said that the proposals as a whole are "potentially the most destructive development that many experienced teachers and former teachers have ever seen". According to the DfE, it will consider all responses to the consultation and will respond in due course.

In addition, ministers recently changed the rules so that only a pupil's first attempt at a GCSE paper would count for league-table/ranking purposes, rather than any results in subsequent attempts.

10 9, 2013
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