The Sunday Telegraph
Outstanding schools to prove they are helping deprived pupils
OFSTED would only be able to rate schools as “outstanding” if they can prove they are helping children catch up with lost learning, under plans being considered by ministers.
Schools would not be eligible for the top grade unless they demonstrate to inspectors that they are narrowing the achievement gap between the poorest pupils and their wealthier peers, according to the proposals.
Officials at the Department for Education are undertaking a review of further catch up measures, including extending the school day ahead of the Chancellor’s spending review.
Ministers are particularly interested in low-cost solutions after losing a battle with the Treasury earlier this month which prompted the education recovery tsar Sir Kevan Collins to resign. At the time, he launched a scathing attack on the Government, accusing ministers of a “half-hearted” approach to helping thousands of children whose learning has been disrupted by the Covid pandemic.
Under the plans – drawn up by Prof Lee Elliot Major, who advises the Government on social mobility issues, and Robert Halfon, the Tory chair of the education select committee and former skills minister – head teachers of outstanding schools would need to show they are helping the most deprived children reach their academic potential.
Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, they said that in order to close the attainment gap between rich and poor students, the Government needs to not only consider funding but it must also “reform the central levers that drive behaviour in schools”.
One way to do this would be to hold schools accountable for the progress they make in improving the academic outcomes of the most deprived students.
“Schools live or die by their Ofsted inspections,” Prof Major and Mr Halfon write. “These changes would encourage schools to be engines of social justice and beacons of educational excellence.”
Under their proposals, being considered by DfE officials, no school would be judged as outstanding unless they have shown they are improving progress of pupils from all backgrounds.
“Poorer children are less likely to attend outstanding schools,” they say. “And while highly rated schools have better results overall, the gap between pupils entitled to free school meals and other pupils is the same in schools whether they are judged outstanding, good, satisfactory or inadequate.”
An Ofsted spokesman said: “We expect schools to give all pupils, particularly those who are disadvantaged or have [special educational needs and disabilities], the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in life, or gain qualifications that allow them to meet their interests and aspirations.”