Ofsted praises exceptional school leaders – but omits significant LA support

Janet Downs's picture

Schools should be congratulated when their Ofsted rating increases by two grades.  It’s a great morale boost.  And Sir Michael Wilshaw, Chief Inspector of Schools, has begun sending letters to ‘exceptional’ school leaders who have helped turn round schools.

The three schools highlighted were Cleves Primary, Newham, previously Requires Improvement and now Outstanding;   Maplewood School, a special school in High Wycombe and Shrewsbury Cathedral Catholic Primary School, both previously Inadequate but now Good.

These three appear to have been signalled out because they were helped by heads from other schools. 

There were 29 other primary schools (named below) whose Ofsted rating rose from Requires Improvement to Outstanding in 2015.  Reports for all of these praised the heads.

Five special schools jumped from Inadequate to Good.  Again, inspectors praised school leaders.

60 previously Inadequate primary schools were upgraded to Good in 2015.   I haven’t read these reports but it’s likely leadership would equally have been at least Good or the schools would not have reached this grade.

 Perhaps Sir Michael will, as he has promised, write congratulatory letters to all these heads and name them in his 2016 Annual Report (we've pre-empted that by listing below the 30 RI to Outstanding primaries, and the five special schools upgraded from Inadequate to Good in 2015).  But including only a tiny number in a press release implies that only heads who support other schools are truly ‘exceptional’.

In truth it’s likely that all the primary schools which jumped two Ofsted grades in 2015 had dynamic leaders.  It’s also likely they received support from other schools, other heads (unnamed), local federations, teaching alliances and, in the case of the few academies on the list, by their academy trusts.  

One factor unites the majority of the 30 primaries which leapt from Requires Improvement to Outstanding and the special schools which rose from Inadequate to Good.  But it isn’t mentioned by Sir Michael.  That common factor is the support of local authorities.

Overwhelmingly, inspectors praised LA intervention.  St Paul’s CofE Primary School: supported ‘very effectively’.  St Mary’s RC Primary School: ‘much appreciated support’.  Abbots Farm Junior and Buckden CofE: ‘effective’ support; Oulton Broad Primary: ‘well-judged support’; Whitehills Primary: ‘positive impact’; Millenium Primary School: ‘highly effective leadership support’.  These were typical comments.  

Three of the five special schools had ‘effective’ or ‘consistent’ LA support.  Even two converter primaries continued to receive ‘light touch’ or ‘good support’ from their respective LAs.

The majority of schools were non-academies: there were just eleven academy converters and one sponsored academy in the 90 primary schools.  But most primary schools are non-academies so the small number of academies is likely only to be expected.  However, the number of non-academies that have improved their Ofsted rating by two grades undermines the Government’s claim that academy status is the best route to school improvement.

These primary school inspection results show academy conversion isn’t essential in improving schools.  And they also show LAs had a significant part to play in this improvement.  This, again, challenges the Government’s assertion that LAs have a poor record in supporting struggling schools and the only way for all schools to improve is to escape from their bureaucratic control.

The 30 primaries upgraded from Requires Improvement to Outstanding in 2015:

Millennium Primary School, Greenwich

St Paul’s CofE Primary School, Hammersmith and Fulham

Ashburnham Community School, Kensington and Chelsea

Edward Pauling Primary School, Feltham

Cleves Primary School, Newham

Aldersbrook Primary School, Redbridge

Beechwood Primary School, Leeds

St Mary’s RC Primary School, North Tyneside

St Aloysius’ RC VA Junior School, South Tyneside

St Stephen’s CofE Junior School, South Gloucestershire

Bathford CofE VC Primary School, Bath and North East Somerset

Holy Trinity CofE Primary School, Windsor and Maidenhead

St Nicholas and St Laurence CofE Primary School, Dorset

Great Bentley Primary School, Essex

Brockswood Primary School, Hertfordshire

Sundridge and Brasted Cof E Primary School, Kent

St Martin’s CofE, Folkestone, Kent

Whitehills Primary School, Northamptonshire

Hempshill Hall Primary School, Nottingham

Oulton Broad Primary School, Suffolk

Abbots Farm Junior School, Warwickshire

Seaside Primary School, West Sussex

Woodcote Primary School, Croydon

Nishkam Primary School, Birmingham

Buckden CofE Primary School, Cambridgeshire

North Ormesby Primary Academy, Middlesbrough

Warden House Primary School, Kent

Mere Green Primary School, Birmingham

Our Lady of Grace Catholic Primary School, Staffordshire

Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School, Gateshead.


The five special schools upgraded from Inadequate to Good in 2015 were:


Maplewood School, Wycombe

Kennel Lane School, Windsor

Hope High School, West Lancashire

Greenfield Academy, Stroud

Peak Academy, Stroud


 Ofsted statistics can be downloaded here








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