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How will Michael Gove respond to Ofsted’s attack on councils?

27 November 2012

Ofsted’s annual report, due out later today, will launch a scathing attack on those responsible for underperforming schools. But rather than taking aim at the teachers or the schools, it’s the local authorities that the watchdog has got set in its sights. The report will say that there is too wide a gap in standards between different councils.

Chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw told the Today programme this morning:

‘There are not only differences between local authorities, there are differences between local authorities with similar demographics, and we will be looking very carefully at what is happening in those local authorities with the same sort of population, same levels of deprivation, similar numbers of children on free school meals where one particular local authority does extremely well, and another one doesn’t.’

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The teaching unions are inevitably rather upset by this, arguing that the government will use ‘naming and shaming’ to force local authorities to convert schools to academies instead. Wilshaw deferred this debate to Education Secretary Michael Gove when quizzed about it on Radio 4, saying:

‘Well, that’s an issue not for Ofsted, but for the Secretary of State: he will obviously look at our inspection judgements and make those sorts of decisions. What we intend to do is to find out why there are these big differences up and down the country.’

Gove may well use the findings in some cases to push for schools to become academies, and independent of local authorities. Don’t forget, though, that when it comes to schools existing outside of local authority control, the Education Secretary has a debate to resolve within his own department about how those schools are supervised, particularly when it comes to the other independent state-funded institutions in the sector: free schools. Currently the Secretary of State has overall responsibility for academies and free schools, but his colleague David Laws believes there should be a middle tier of supervision for the growing number of free schools. As a Liberal Democrat, his instinct might be for some local authority involvement, which might be more difficult a case to make following Ofsted’s revelations today about the disparities between the way councils intervene in their local schools.

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Show comments
  • MrCreosote

    How OFSTED have the gall to cricitise anyone is beyond me – this is a case of one set of box-ticking, useless jobsworths “inspecting” another!

  • Sweetpea

    Academies perform worse than other schools; academy pupils more likely to take GCSE “equivalent” exams (BTECs); academy pupils less likely to achieve EBacc (1/33); Free Schools and the best performing academies (former grammar and independent schools) have far fewer free school meal pupils.

    • TomTom

      Free School Meals is a farce as an indicator of anything and should be ignored as it is so skewed anyway.

      • eeore

        Indeed, but it plays to the gallery of those that like to base their opinion of people based on monetary value.

      • Sweetpea

        FSM is a key indicator used by both the Government and Ofsted to measure pupil progress (it is the driver behind the much vaunted Pupil Premium). And I repeat: irrespective of FSM, DfE data shows academies perform worse than LA maintained schools. So perhaps it is you that is skewed and should be ignored (on this topic, at least)?

        • TomTom

          Why ? I agree with your conclusion but simply find FSM a skewed basis upon which to judge deprivation……but you think I should be ignored because i question this statistic….so be it…..your view on FSM is the ONLY ONE that can be valid clearly

          • Sweetpea

            Of course you shouldn’t be ignored! But neither should the FSM measure (even though it is not an ideal indicator of deprivation). The fact that FSM pupils are already under-represented at Free Schools, and have always been under-represented at the best performing academies, suggests that children who meet other measures of deprivation are also missing out. While there is evidence to suggest that some LAs are not managing their schools well, there is no evidence to support the proposition that schools perform better when they are converted to academies.

  • wonderfulforhisage

    Teacher training has been the preserve of closet Marxists for decades. C’est tout.

  • Colonel Mustard

    The Left love naming and shaming except when it is turned on them. I think those responsible in local authorities for under performing schools should be made to wear a reflective bib with “I am responsible for an under performing school” emblazoned on it.

    • Ian Walker

      Great idea, although perhaps ro really annoy the guardianistas it should be a dunce’s cap

      • telemachus

        Right wing knee jerkism
        Why do you not offer to analyse and remediate.

  • TomTom

    Plato created The Academy on a selective basis whereas in England it is simply another name for a State Comprehensive in PFI buildings designed by supermarket architects with cheap fittings and expensive maintenance and owned by InfraRed Infrastructure Fund in Jersey. Local Authorities are often disastrous in Education and should be ranked by scale of disaster with details of Ethnic Composition and First Language Skills given alongside Spending Per Pupil and Teacher Turnover by School together with Materinity Absences and Supply Teacher Rotation

    • telemachus

      Plat’s Academy was for patricians only
      The Bog Standard comprehensive serves all
      Figures today quantify our education system as the 6th best in the world

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