Coasting schools in leafy suburbs new target
But SSAT was supposed to be targeting Coasting school for the last three years
The Government self-evidently wants to see standards rise throughout the education system so that our schools and system compare with the best in the world. The Accountability regime has ensured that there has been a concentration on targeting failing schools, but the Government also now wants to ‘ concentrate on the schools in the leafy suburbs that are not challenging their pupils as well as they should. All schools will now be subject to our scrutiny to make sure that they raise standards. The new performance tables will identify how schools perform in relation to children of high academic ability, as well as how they perform in relation to children of a lower academic ability.’ (Nick Gibb, Commons 14 Nov). Currently outstanding schools are exempt from inspection but the opposition worry that this might encourage such schools to start coasting . For example , when an outstanding leader leaves an outstanding school, that can often lead to a big change in the performance of that school. The Governments view revolves around the principle of having proportionate inspection and targeting the limited resources on schools that have the most pressing need. However it is perhaps significant that the new head of Ofsted has said one of his priorities is ‘Coasting ‘schools.It is also true ,of course, that even when schools are exempted from inspection, inspectors will still see some outstanding schools during the process of themed inspections, which might look for example at how religious education or maths is taught. David Cameron in a Daily Telegraph article last week says that while it is “relatively easy” to identify problem schools, it is just as important to tackle those that are resigned to mediocrity. “It is just as important to tackle those all over the country content to muddle through — places where respectable results and a decent local reputation mask a failure to meet potential,” he writes. “Children who did well in primary school but who lose momentum. Early promise fades. This is the hidden crisis in our schools — in prosperous shires and market towns just as much as in the inner cities.” In January, new league tables will be published that will show how low-, middle- and high-achieving children are performing in their schools. Coasting schools though is hardly a new problem. Back in 2009 Official data, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, showed that a total of 470 secondary schools, many located in middle-class suburbs and shire counties, were “resting on their laurels” instead of pushing pupils to get the best grades. In 2008/9 the SSAT won a contract to target and support coasting schools as part of the Gaining Ground programme, using its Schools Network. The aim of the programme was ‘to raise students’ rates of progression through collaborative intervention.’ The SSATs Schools Network involvement in the programme ended on 31st March 2011. Can we now assume that this initiative failed given that the issue is now being revisited by this Government? What exactly did the SSAT achieve with taxpayers money? I think we should be told. No doubt the SSAT will bid for the next contract to support coasting schools. Other bidders for the Gaining Ground programme pointed out at the time that many of the so-called ‘coasting ‘schools were then operating under the umbrella of the SSAT. So it looked at the time that awarding this quango the contract was effectively incentivising failure. And thats what it still looks like!
Nick Gibb, the schools Minister, reacting to this weeks Ofsted Annual report said
“ There are still far too many underperforming schools making painfully slow improvements. It is worrying that Ofsted finds that 800 schools are stuck steadfastly at a satisfactory rating in inspection after inspection. It’s a real concern that some schools with very able intakes are merely coasting instead of making sure students achieve their full potential. And outstanding or good schools cannot afford to take their foot off the pedal simply because they have had a strong inspection result.”