2.3m pupils being let down by schools: Watchdog chief condemns 'postcode lottery'



01:54 GMT, 28 November 2012

Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted's senior inspector, said the difference in teaching standards is 'unacceptable'

Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted's senior inspector, said the difference in teaching standards is 'unacceptable'

More than two million children attend under-performing schools amid a ‘postcode lottery’, Ofsted’s chief inspector revealed yesterday.

Sir Michael Wilshaw said there were ‘completely unacceptable’ differences in standards, even within affluent suburbs where youngsters are let down by coasting schools.

These ‘serious inequities’ mean some pupils face a less than 50 per cent chance of attending a good school compared with 90 per cent in other areas.

In his first annual report, Sir Michael said: ‘It is absolutely a postcode lottery and we are never going to get a world-class system unless we reduce these wide variations.’

His report shows that there have been improvements in the past few years, with 70 per cent of all schools now rated good or outstanding compared with 64 per cent five years ago.

But 2.3milllion children attend schools rated as less than good – where lessons are often ‘formulaic’ and pupils not stretched.

Sir Michael said he wanted to ‘shine a spotlight’ on areas that are underperforming, particularly in the primary sector.

As a result, Ofsted has published a league table for the first time that names and shames local authorities where children have the lowest chances of attending a primary school rated good or better.

It has also launched an online tool which allows parents to compare secondary and primary school standards across regions.

The worst area for primary education is Coventry, where only 42 per cent of children attend good or better schools. The best is 92 per cent in Camden, north London.

Some of the poorest districts have high numbers of good and outstanding primaries, while other richer areas are performing badly. Referring to under-performance in affluent areas, Sir Michael said: ‘Are these schools coasting simply because they have got a significant number of children not on free school meals’

The Best And The Worst


Britain is ranked sixth best for education in the developed world, according to a new global league table.

The UK comes ahead of countries such as Canada, Australia, the United States, Germany and France.

The table of 40 countries is topped by Finland, South Korea, Hong Kong-China and Japan, while Indonesia comes last.

The research compared government spending on education, school entrance age, teacher salaries and degree of school choice while factoring in cognitive skills and literacy and graduation rates.

Economic and social outcomes such as national unemployment rates, GDP, life expectancy and prison populations were also taken into account.

However, an analysis of the data shows that when the UK is measured on cognitive skills alone – based on international tests for pupils in maths, reading and science – it slips to 12th position.

The global study was undertaken by the Economist Intelligence Unit and published by education firm Pearson.

Called The Learning Curve, it is designed to help school leaders, academics and policymakers identify the key factors that bring about improvements in education.

Calling for more data on student progress to be included in league tables, he added: ‘If you look at a school in a nice, prosperous, affluent area with nice kids with low levels of free school meals, on the surface it could look really good.

‘But the broad headings of GCSE might hide a number of other factors, or hide underperformance. I would want to see more data on progress from one key stage to the next; particularly for those youngsters who are leaving primary school on Level 5, for example, who are not getting As and A*s or B grades when they sit their GCSEs.’

■ Many children are starting school ‘without the basic skills and abilities’ they need to be ready to learn, Ofsted said.

More than 200,000 five-year-olds – 34 per cent – are struggling to communicate or get to grips with reading and writing, despite the fact that since 2008 most three and four-year-olds have been receiving free early education.