Ofsted

Grammar schools ratings topple as new Ofsted regime bites

Kent school that controversially opened satellite site in 2015 among those downgraded

Kent school that controversially opened satellite site in 2015 among those downgraded

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Only a third of ‘outstanding’ grammar schools inspected since 2021 have kept an unconditional top grade, casting doubts on calls to revive selection.

Schools downgraded include the Weald of Kent, which was controversially allowed to open a satellite site in 2015.

Ofsted’s new inspection framework, coupled with the lifting of a previous inspection exemption for outstanding schools, has led to large numbers being downgraded.

Grammar schools are more likely to be rated ‘outstanding’, but have not escaped the crackdown.

Schools Week analysis found that of 25 previously top-rated grammars inspected since September, only nine kept their full ‘outstanding’ rating. Some had not been inspected in 16 years.

A further three kept their rating for now, but inspectors highlighted concerns and warned their grades “might not be as high” at a full inspection.

Thirteen of the schools were downgraded, with 11 rated ‘good’ and two ‘requires improvement’.

The downgrades are beginning to change the inspection profile of the grammar school system.

Fewer grammar schools are now ‘outstanding’

As of last August, 80 per cent of the country’s 163 grammars were rated ‘outstanding’, compared with about 19 per cent of schools more generally. By the end of May, this was down to about 74 per cent.

grammar schools
Dr Nuala Burgess

It will be bad news for supporters of selection, who have been lobbying the government to lift the ban on new grammars.

Dr Nuala Burgess, the chair of the anti-grammar school campaign group Comprehensive Future, said it took “no delight in any school being rated poorly by Ofsted”.

“But we do welcome the fact that Ofsted is starting to look more closely at what takes place within individual grammar schools.

“It seems that the days of rubber-stamping all grammar schools with an ‘outstanding’ grade is coming to an end. We welcome this.”

But Mark Fenton, the chief executive of the Grammar School Heads’ Association, said the current Ofsted framework “has been designed to make it much more challenging for schools to achieve an ‘outstanding’ judgment”.

But grammars still more likely to keep top grade

“Grammar schools have been significantly more successful than previously ‘outstanding’ schools in general in retaining the highest inspection grading.”

According to the latest Ofsted data, of 390 previously outstanding schools inspected since September, 109, or 28 per cent, retained their full outstanding grade. This compares with 36 per cent of grammars.

The Weald of Kent, now downgraded to ‘requires improvement’, rose to national prominence in 2015 when ministers approved its satellite plan for a site nine miles away.

Following a visit in April, inspectors warned that although pupils were “encouraged to work hard and aim for personal success”, a “significant number are concerned about bullying”.

The downgrading is particularly controversial, given its success was a key plank of then education secretary Nicky Morgan’s argument in favour of granting grammar school expansion.

In 2015, she said it was the government’s policy “that all good and outstanding schools should be able to expand to offer excellent places to local students”, adding that Weald of Kent was “one of the top-performing schools in the country”.

But the school had not been inspected since it was rated ‘outstanding’ in 2007, eight years before the expansion was approved.

Kent head ‘disappointed’ with inspection

Head Elizabeth Bone, who told local press that the school would appeal, said there were “positive aspects of the report to be proud of”, but that she was “disappointed with the overall outcome of the inspection”.

“We are committed to upholding the best possible behaviour standards and reporting procedures and have been continuing to work closely alongside our students, teachers, staff, parents and carers to introduce a number of initiatives to support this.”

A spokesperson for the Latymer School in north London, whose grade dropped from ‘outstanding’ to ‘good’ this May following its first inspection since 2008, said its leaders and staff “felt that the school had been unfairly downgraded”.

“There was a feeling that the school had already been prejudged before the inspection took place.”

However, not all downgraded schools were critical of Ofsted.

Cranbrook School in Kent was downgraded to ‘good’ after an inspection in March. Will Chuter, Its head, praised the “constructive approach of the inspection team and the tone of the report”. He said the school was addressing the areas flagged for improvement.

“While Ofsted is important, it is not what we educate children for, and I’m sure all educationists worth their salt believe that there are other, equally valid ways of assessing the quality of a school.”

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