Education ministers employ a ‘light touch’ when overseeing schools

Lack of clear guidelines means there are insufficient interventions in schools with major problems


Today’s PAC report on school oversight and intervention depicts a system plagued by lack of clear information.

The report finds that many schools are declining or failing to improve. Of the schools rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted in 2012/13, 36 per cent had previously been rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding, and there are still 1.6 million children attending schools that are less than ‘good’.

The Department of Education has been worryingly slow to act on its findings. In 2013, 179 open academies met the criteria for formal intervention, but the Department only sent a warning notice to 15. These were schools who, based on exam results and Ofsted rating, met the government’s definition of ‘failure’.

PAC accuse the Department of taking a ‘light touch approach’ to school oversight, and say it does not collect enough information to do its job effectively, including information about the capacity of local authorities to make improvements.

The report also finds that the Department does not know enough about the sponsors of the Academy programme; some sponsors have been allowed to expand too fast and ‘a significant number’ are failing to improve their schools.

Responding to the findings, the shadow Education secretary Tristram Hunt said:

“David Cameron’s schools policy is harming the life chances of young people, as schools are exposed to undue influence and falling standards are left to go unchecked.

“The events in schools in Birmingham reveal the weakness in government policy and the failure to prevent radical agendas playing out in our schools.

“Instead of taking decisive action to prevent a repeat, ministers have ruled out tough action.

“Labour will introduce tough oversight of schools, with new directors of Schools Standards at local level. They will keep a check on all state schools to prevent the sort of incidents that we saw in Birmingham schools and ensure that underperformance is spotted early and challenged so that standards are raised across the country.”

Meanwhile, Christine Blower of the NUT said:

“That the Department for Education is ‘guilty’ of lacking a strategic oversight of school autonomy, and has insufficient independent assessments of the effectiveness of academy sponsors in place is unacceptable.

“It makes a mockery of the policies it has so relentlessly pursued in the last five years at the expense of pupils, parents, teachers and school leaders.”

The PAC recommend that more research is needed into the most effective ways of intervening, and create independent measures to regulate Academy sponsors.

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2 Responses to “Education ministers employ a ‘light touch’ when overseeing schools”

  1. David Lindsay

    Oh, what larks! The public schools turn out to be rubbish. Yes, I know. But it’s still funny.

    More seriously, since the English state education system has never been more centralised, why did the Secretary of State not resign on Thursday? And how is getting someone through a resit any less of an educational achievement than getting a high-flyer an A* at the first attempt?

    Meanwhile, what if it’s true? What if the commercial schools really are not very good, or even any good? They have been academically dreadful for prolonged periods in the past. The present Government is drawn heavily from them, and look at that. After all, in England, no one has ever bothered to check. They “inspect” themselves. Well, they inspect each other. But that amounts to the same thing.

    At the very least, let the condition of a commercial school’s continuing charitable status be its having been adjudged satisfactory or better by Ofsted, using the same criteria as for state schools, with the reports published, and with the value-added measure applied, thereby requiring those schools to have demonstrated how they had improved pupils’ abilities.

    Oh, and forget the drivel in the Daily Mail, great expert on the North East that it is, about the Durham Free School. It was closed for being rubbish. Simple as that. What would its defenders say about a comp at which 60 per cent of the pupils had been suspended? One Secretary of State for Education has already been sacked, and another one ought to be.

    For the entire free schools programme, the only specific Conservative policy on anything at the last General Election, has been an unmitigated disaster. Primary legislation ought to surcharge David Cameron, Michael Gove and Toby Young personally for the cost of it.

  2. Guest

    There is no “satisfactory” any more. That has been replaced with “needs improvement”.

    This is now being used to justify replacing the staff of schools and will be used en-mass to force schools into academy status.

    Also, no, ending democracy is a terrible idea.

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