December 03, 2015

Annual report is correct to a certain extent

Ofsted’s annual report


A few observations linked to our trust

The Chief Inspector announced Ofsted’s latest annual report with a fanfare earlier this week. I’ve taken six of the key messages and offered my own opinion based on our trust’s experience.

The North/South divide
This isn’t quite as straightforward as the headline suggests. I could draw attention to the higher than average income each London student gets based on DfE formula funding or consider the higher income per family or even the significantly higher proportion of adults with a Level 3 qualification in the south but I won’t. At the end of the day we need to drive up standards in all schools and the reason why our trust was created was to tackle disadvantage in some of our most deprived inner city communities. All but one of our schools is judged ‘good’ by Ofsted. We are doing well and making a difference.

Primaries are not the problem
All of our trust primaries have been judged ‘good’ by Ofsted. They are making a big difference in improving life chances for the pupils.

Academies are not the only solution
While Sir Michael supports academies and their role in improving the school system, the chief inspector states that converting schools into academies “can only do so much”. I agree. Our academies have changed life chances for our pupils/students but we have never embarked on a programme that ignores or doesn’t work with local authorities and other surrounding schools. Our trust is unique and as such I regularly get annoyed when politicians and observers make sweeping statements about academies. We are different and proud to be so.

Teacher shortages are beginning to bite
There are not enough high-quality teachers entering the school system, the annual report says, but certain pockets of the country are finding it far harder to recruit than others. I would agree with this. It is becoming increasingly difficult to attract teachers in some shortage subjects especially in the areas where our academies are located. Nonetheless, our staff are committed and remain with us because they know they are making a real difference. We are currently developing a more overt strategy for retaining, recruiting and rewarding our staff. We need to do all we can to secure the very best staff possible and keep them.


Leadership is a concern
A lack of quality leaders coming into the system is a problem, the report states. We have many outstanding leaders. Leaders that are committed, talented, ambitious and willing to take a knock back or two. They are resilient and grounded in what is best for our pupils and students. We have however faced some difficulties in securing a replacement headteacher for one of our primary academies but we are not short of outstanding senior leaders. Not all of them, however, want to be headteachers.
 Poor white pupils still perform worst
​White British pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds remain the lowest-performing group of students at GCSE. This is not just a problem at GCSE but it permeates throughout the age groups. In fact, white British boys are an identified group in all of our primary academies when they join our Early Years.