Ofsted has provided an independent boost for Michael Gove today. Just days after his plans to toughen up GCSEs were finally confirmed; a survey lambasts non-selective secondary schools for systematically failing thousands of bright children. Instead of challenging their abilities, Ofsted says the most intelligent pupils are being left to ‘tread water’.
The numbers in the report back up these disturbing claims. After surveying 41 schools and observing 2,000 lessons, Ofsted says 65 per cent of high-attaining pupils at primary school failed to achieve an A* or A grade in non-selective secondary schools. A quarter of pupils (27,000) previously classified as high attaining did not achieve a B grade in GCSE English or Mathematics. The report blames a lack of thorough assessment and progress tracking, as well as no proper expertise on catering for the brightest minds.
The teaching unions have been out in force, blaming the government’s ‘league-table culture’ for pushing teachers into the centre. The National Association of Head Teachers also say the figures in the Ofsted report ‘don’t present an accurate picture’. On the Today programme, the chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw hit back at these ‘nonsense’ claims, instead stating the results are ‘pretty poor’ and urged teachers not to ‘teach to the middle ground’:
‘We’re in a situation in this country where many more youngsters are going from the independent sector and grammar schools to the top universities than those in the comprehensive schools. We’ve got to do something about that.’
Thankfully, the problem is already being tackled. As Toby Young writes in this week’s Spectator, the Education Secretary quest for a ‘permanent revolution’ and his indefatigable attempts to reform GCSEs are rooted in his desire to help the underdog — in this case, bright kids in normal secondary schools. The new tougher curriculum, due to come in September 2015, should go some way to help students who are not being pushed.
But is this enough? Gove has spoken in the past of the need to sack bad teachers and as Fraser Nelson reveals in the magazine, removing the least-effective 10 per cent of teachers could have a huge impact on the future prospects of pupils:
‘What matters, according to Professor Hanushek’s research, is great teachers. ‘A good teacher can get 1.5 years of learning growth; a bad teacher gets half a year of learning growth.’ The difference between a good and bad teacher is one year of learning, every year. Having four consecutive years of high-quality teaching, he says, can eliminate any trace of economic disadvantage. ‘Family is not destiny’: studies show that, 20 years after leaving school, the pupils of great teachers are still doing markedly better in life.’
Now the curriculum is dealt with, bad teachers look set to be Michael Gove’s next battle with education establishment – aka ‘the blob’.