As another term and the school year draws to a close, Sophie Scott looks at what Ofsted has been up to since Easter
Overall grade distribution
It is the end of a busy year for Ofsted inspectors with almost 4,700 inspections carried out across schools in England since the start of the academic year.
As the summer term ends, we look at how this final academic term’s section 5 inspections shape up compared with those across the year.
The more than 1,400 inspections carried out this term largely mirrored the overall pattern of about 70 per cent of schools achieving a good or outstanding rating.
Across the year, 36 per cent of schools remained at the same grade, with 28 per cent moving up one grade.
But things picked up this term: 34 per cent of schools moved up one grade, and just 28 per cent remained the same.
Ofsted’s framework changes from September and the watchdog says that it will assume schools are “good” unless shown otherwise. We will have to wait to see the impact this has on future rating shifts.
Primaries vs secondaries
Primary schools made up almost three-quarters of this term’s inspections, with more than 1,000 taking place since April.
Continuing the pattern of the whole year, primary schools fared better than secondaries. There was also minimal fluctuation in their distribution of ratings, compared with the annual level.
There was some good news for secondary schools this term, however. A higher proportion were rated good or outstanding compared with the previous two terms – finally breaking the 50 per cent barrier.
Inadequate ratings were the biggest shifter this term for secondary schools. There’s a five percentage point difference in schools rated inadequate this term compared with the whole year – just 8 per cent in the past few months, compared to 13 per cent over the year.
This change is reflected in the proportion rated good, 49 per cent in the summer, and 43 per cent over the year.
Special schools are still the most likely to be rated outstanding. Inspectors put a whopping 44 per cent in the top category this term. Over the year 36 per cent were given the top grade. This term, 88 per cent were either good or outstanding.
Alternative provision schools have also had a thumping year, with 78 per cent making the top two grades.
Of the six alternative provision schools rated inadequate this year, four have been downgraded from a good Ofsted rating.
Of the remaining two, one previously was told that it required improvement and the final one kept its inadequate rating. All are local authority-maintained, although one is in the process of becoming an academy.
How do different school types compare?
There was a big boost in the number of free schools inspections this term. Fifty-two were inspected, compared with just five between Christmas and Easter.
Three were rated in inadequate, although none has yet faced the same ramifications as The Durham Free School, closed by education secretary Nicky Morgan in March within weeks of its Ofsted rating.
Three-quarters of free schools inspected this term were rated as good or outstanding. This will play nicely into the government’s rhetoric as they plan to open a further 500 over the next parliament. The UK Statistics Authority has said that the numbers are not comparable to those for mainstream schools (due to the higher frequency of inspections among low-performing schools open for more than three years).
A more comparable figure is between local authority-maintained schools and converter academies. The former pipped the latter on the proportion of good or outstanding schools – 72 per cent versus 70 per cent, respectively.
The proportion of local authority-maintained schools put into special measures also dipped: down to 3 per cent this term, and 4 per cent over the year. Converter academies remained steady with 6 per cent placed in special measures this year.
Sponsored academies had a better term. The proportion of those either requiring improvement or in special measures fell to 45 per cent (the first time this year it has been less than half), although this still does not change the annual picture as 51 per cent, overall, were given the lowest two grades.
The school behind the headlines
Sir John Gleed School came to Schools Week’s attention while we were investigating the education secretary’s assertion that academies enable a “world class education”.
We found 133 academies were labelled inadequate – 28 of which were good or outstanding before conversion. Sir John Gleed in Spalding, Lincolnshire, had been inadequate for the longest time, since April 2013.
“It was upsetting to read it, in black and white,” headteacher Will Scott said in an email. “But it’s a fact and we have to accept that. But that fact has a context.”
And so Schools Week accepted his invitation to visit the 1,200-pupil academy earlier this month.
The school became an academy under CfBT Schools Trust in January 2013, a few months after the merger of two single-gender schools that shared its one huge building.
Chris Mallaband, an executive head with CfBT who has provided extra leadership since the summer of 2013, says: “It was assumed merging would be easy, but it wasn’t. The school lost confidence in its leadership and its own ability. It went into a rapid downward spiral.”
Mr Scott, who took over as head in May 2013, added: “The kids lost their identity. That was the first thing I wanted to do – give them back their pride.”
The pair have set about changing the culture of the school by reigniting positivity and optimism. Now, the teachers smile and pupils behave immaculately.
The six pupils I spoke to only have good words to say, a big difference from how they talk about the immediate post-merger years.
Ofsted visited the school again this March and the report was published in May. The school was again rated inadequate. But all criteria, barring achievement of pupils, was rated requires improvement.
The school had a 31 per cent five A* to C GSCE pass rate last year, which Mr Mallaband admits is “dire”. But this year’s cohort is on course for about 45 per cent, lifting it above the government’s 40 per cent floor target.
“So much of the final bit of the jigsaw will fall into place when we get good GCSE results,” Mr Scott says.
The school believes it can push past 50 per cent in the coming years (put into context it is bang next to two grammar schools, one of which has about 70 per cent five A* to C) and is aiming for outstanding in three years.
Schools Week will report back in September to see how they have done.
Based on all section 5 school inspection reports published between January 1 and March 20
Percentages may not sum to 100 due to rounding
1. Converter academies are treated as not having been inspected previously where this inspection was as a maintained school
2. Consisting of studio schools, pupil referral units, foundation schools and non-maintained special schools