Good or outstanding schools share common features, says Ofsted, and academy status isn’t one of them

Janet Downs's picture
Academies in deprived areas which are successful in “closing the gap” between the performance of their pupils and national averages share common features with good or outstanding non-academies in equally-deprived areas, says the annual Ofsted report*. Ofsted identified the following characteristics:

1 A commitment to both the academic and personal achievement of each pupil.

2 Improved attendance as aspirations rose.

3 Rigorous monitoring which led to improved post-16 progression.

4 Effective use of assessment.

Ofsted listed features which secondary schools wishing to speed up the progress of all pupils should consider. These included:

1 Strong leadership with a clearly-articulated, shared philosophy.

2 Monitoring systems to identify underperformance.

3 High-quality professional development.

4 Staff involvement in planning and taking responsibility for improvements.

5 Tailor-made support for pupils.

6 Attendance and behaviour management strategies consistently followed.

7 Involving parents.

8 A challenging but flexible curriculum.

9 Targeted intervention for younger students in basic skills, especially literacy.

10 High quality teaching.

11 Well-planned induction and transition arrangements.

Academy status is not one of the listed features. And the recommended traits can be developed by all schools not just academies.

The Government keeps insisting that academies work. But they only work when they share features with successful non-academies. PriceWaterhouseCoopers recognised this in 2008 – when schools improve they use similar methods irrespective of academy status. But the Government refuses to acknowledge this. Instead, it blunders onward promoting its academy conversion programme, by force if necessary.

Mr Gove says he wants his policies underpinned by evidence. But when the evidence contradicts his prejudices he ignores it.

*Downloadable here

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Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 26/05/2012 - 08:44

Re-reading that report reminds me that there is not link between Labour's academies and Gove's.

Gove's academies are just about individualising negotiation regarding pay aren't they?
Its the only context in which they make some kind of sense - albeit twisted and wrong nonsense.

Of course they don't actually make sense at all because budgets can already be cut in many ways as we well know (I assume others have worked in schools with budget black holes who have had to do whatever is necessary too?), overall costs can be cut through economic policy and the unions are reasonable and do not have any inappropriate powers.

Teaching is a fundamentally collaborative profession and there are many modes of fairness which allow things to be changed/cut already established. It's stupid to try to do it by individualising schools.

The cuts are coming. There may be some strikes of protest to express the pain. So what? Cuts to schools will have horrendous consequences for our students and teachers will need to express the pain being experienced and should be allowed to do that. It would be much better and more efficient if there were local administration in place with some pots of money to fix the situations which are clearly going to escalate rapidly if they are not addressed. Otherwise teachers will rightly have much more fuel protests as they will be experiencing horrors going on which could easily have been avoided.

Kevin Campbell's picture
Sat, 26/05/2012 - 18:39

So how did ARK's Charter Academy in Portsmouth manage to achieve a "good" fromOFSTED when in its general academic performance, bar GCSE English, is so poor:

This report should be investigated.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 26/05/2012 - 21:42

Ofsted is not required to be consistent in its judgements of state schools Kevin. It's got itself and opt-out from all the legal principles and obligations of inspection and regulation that all other organisations are protected by. Neither is it required to be proportionate in its actions or to intervene on in where there is cause for protection - which again all other regulators are required to be.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 27/05/2012 - 08:18

Kevin - it is simplistic to judge a school on its results alone. It is possible to be a good school and still have a low percentage of pupils reaching the benchmark. In the school you mention the 2011 GCSE cohort was skewed towards the bottom end. 41% had low attainment on entering the school (based on Key Stage 2 SAT results), 50% were middle attainers and only 9% were high.

Nevertheless, 100% of the high attainers reached the benchmark of 5+ GCSEs A*-C including Maths and English.

The Ofsted report said that good teaching was the norm in the school with students making good progress despite their low starting points and pupils behaved well.

It is also possible that a school is providing a poor standard of education even though its results are high. In 2009, Ofsted judged a grammar school to be inadequate.

Kevin Campbell's picture
Sun, 27/05/2012 - 11:20

That may be true, but a school should not be rated as 'good' based on on the conversion rate in one subject. I wonder why their GCSE English results are so much better than other subject areas?

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 27/05/2012 - 14:42

"The Ofsted report said that good teaching was the norm in the school with students making good progress despite their low starting points and pupils behaved well."

Ofsted reports are generally just cut and paste standard statements which are created to justify the conclusions which have already been reached. Few people think that judgements on the quality of teaching are actually related to what's going on in the classroom.

To judge the quality of teaching you actually need to have a dialogue with the teacher and probe their justification for why they are doing what they are doing and understand its context in a longer term. Why this kind of judgement and monitoring does go on internally with some validity in many schools, it is not realistically possible under the Ofsted mode of operation, especially given the poor quality of many of the inspectors we now have.

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