Ofsted shows most children receive a good education, despite the difficulties faced by teachers
Teachers, head teachers and support staff work tirelessly to do the best for children and young people and, as the Ofsted annual report shows, the vast majority of schools across England are either good or outstanding and early years education has never been stronger. This is indeed, as Sir Michael Wilshaw says something to be celebrated.
Primary schools in the South achieve 85% good or outstanding Ofsted judgements compared to 84% of primaries in the North and Midlands. The difference is negligible. Students are more aware of disadvantage the closer they get to the labour market. A lack of employment prospects will lead many students to feel disillusioned. Schools alone cannot compensate on their own for the lack of prospects many young people fear. That is the responsibility of Government which must do more to provide opportunities for all young people in the form of apprenticeships and secure, well-paid employment in addition to access to further and higher education.
The report shows that local authority maintained schools performed as well, if not better than academies. This, yet again, begs the question as to why the Government has ploughed millions of tax payers’ money into the academies and free schools programme for no tangible gain. The London boroughs of Hackney, Islington and Lambeth are all singled out for praise in the report. The vast majority of schools in these high performing boroughs are local authority schools, not academies.
Sir Michael Wilshaw mentions the London Challenge as being one of the main drivers of improvement for schools in the Capital. This was achieved through schools working together sharing skills and expertise. It was abolished under the last Government but we agree with the Chief Inspector that this needs to be brought back and rolled out across the country.
The Chief Inspector points out that strong and inspirational leadership are necessary for a school to thrive. Equally important is sufficient funding, resources and teachers without which schools are severely hindered in meeting the needs of their pupils. Many LA support services upon which schools relied, such as music teachers and special educational needs support, have been severely reduced or entirely lost. These services made a difference to lives and in particular children from low income backgrounds.
Ensuring that young people remain engaged in education in secondary school relies on a curriculum that is relevant and exciting. Core academic subjects are important but they must not be over emphasised at the expense of vocational and arts subjects. Schools alone cannot compensate for the lack of prospects many young people fear. That is the responsibility of Government which must do more to provide opportunities for all young people in the form of apprenticeships, and secure well-paid employment in addition to access to further and higher education.
Teacher recruitment is clearly a problem and has been for some time. The report highlights the fact that even head teachers in affluent areas are finding it hard to recruit staff. The numbers for teacher training are 7% below target. This is alarming. It is vital that the reasons behind this are resolved.
Teaching has become an unattractive profession for graduates. The reasons are clear. New graduates are getting the message that there are no pay prospects in teaching, which is why they are going elsewhere. However, other factors which are driving teachers out of the profession must be addressed, including excessive workload and attacks on the profession.
With the announcement in the Comprehensive Spending Review education funding is set to be cut yet again. The hard work of teachers and students is under threat from the Governments own austerity agenda.