Ofsted data shows grammars do not ‘guarantee quality’

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A grammar school does not guarantee education quality, shows a new analysis of Ofsted data that reveals some grammars require improvement and have been in special measures.

It also suggests that the reintroduction of secondary modern schools could create more “unsatisfactory” schools, as more require improvement than are outstanding.

Following Theresa May’s announcement that the government will spend £50 million a year on the expansion of existing grammar schools, Schools Week crunched the latest Ofsted figures to see how grammars performed compared with secondary moderns – schools that admit students who fail the 11-plus.

Of the 163 grammar schools in the country, 133 are rated as outstanding, while 26 are good.

However, Poole grammar school and the Boston grammar school in Lincolnshire both require improvement.

Five other grammar schools were previously rated as requires improvement and one – Chatham grammar school for boys in Kent – fell into special measures.

Bob Harrison (pictured), vice chair of governors at Lostock college, a secondary modern in Manchester, told Schools Week this data proved that being a grammar school “does not guarantee high quality of the education”.

“In terms of value added, surely when these schools are selecting the top 20 per cent of pupils in an area, they should all be outstanding.”

But Robert McCartney, chairman of the National Grammar Schools Association, said the evidence suggested grammar schools were “displaying fewer areas of failure or vulnerability than other institutions”.

“There is no organisation of any kind that cannot be improved, and that doesn’t have areas that need improvement. That speaks as well for the grammar system.”

There is no organisation of any kind that cannot be improved, and that doesn’t have areas that need improvement

Meanwhile, Ofsted data on secondary modern schools revealed that of the 120 identified as “modern”, just 15 were rated as outstanding, 76 were good, 21 required improvement and five were in special measures. (Three did not have an inspection grade.)

Harrison said these figures were not a true reflection of the national picture because there were about 600 secondary moderns in the country and many heads did not identify their secondaries as “moderns” with Ofsted because the term had a negative meaning.

Of the official figures, Harrison said: “By creating more secondary moderns you are going to create more schools that are more likely to require improvement or be unsatisfactory.”

McCartney however, said the data put to bed the suggestion that all secondary moderns provided “very poor” education.

Ian Widdows, headteacher at Giles academy in Lincolnshire and founder of the National Association for Secondary Moderns, said he was not “surprised” about the range of quality of provision among grammars, but said the proportion being judged as outstanding “does not reflect the work of these schools”.

Widdows told Schools Week: “I feel that there is a reverse ‘halo effect’ in operation here. Inspectors see the examination results for a secondary modern and assume that this cannot be an outstanding school. There has been far too much focus on threshold measures that flatter grammar schools and cast a shadow over the hard work of secondary moderns.”

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    • Mark Watson

      According to this article the evidence is that 82% of grammars are outstanding and 16% are good (leaving 2% that are Requires Improvement or Inadequate).
      According to Ofsted’s data from March 2016 the results from LA maintained schools were that 19% were outstanding, 68% were good and 13% were Requires Improvement or Inadequate.
      I don’t actually think this is a very good way of deciding whether more grammars is the right way forward, but that’s the ‘evidence’ discussed in this article.

  1. Many Outstanding grammars haven’t been inspected for years – some as long ago as 2007. Inconsistently, the Outstanding judgement is carried forward on school performance tables when they become academies. In theory, academies are classified as ‘not previously inspected’ when they have their first inspection as an academy although reference is sometimes made to judgements from predecessor schools. But this isn’t happening for grammar academies. Look at school performance tables for Lincolnshire, for example, and most grammar academies are riding on inspection judgements done before they became academies while other uninspected academies are labelled ‘No data available or applicable for this school or college.’

    • Mark Watson

      I had a quick look at the DfE list of academies, and the most recent grammar school I could see that converted to an academy was King Edward VI Grammar School in Louth (at least, it was the most recent that had the word ‘grammar’ in its name).
      Here’s a link to Ofsted’s page on the school:
      If you bother to have a look you’ll see that it doesn’t have an Ofsted rating (even though its last Ofsted inspection before it converted was Outstanding). The Academy Conversion Information Letter makes it clear that as an academy it is a new school and states in pretty clear language that “the inspection judgements of the predecessor school are not those of the new academy”
      Is this another classic example of ‘Janet Downs porky pies’?