Ofsted's leader Sir Michael Wilshaw leaves his post at the end of the year and has just published his fifth annual report. It doesn't make for comfortable reading if you work for the DfE or a Regional School Commissioner.
But there is some great news, which, as ever, didn't make any headlines:
"Education for children below the age of 11 is stronger than ever. The fact that there are more good and outstanding primary schools, nurseries, pre-schools and childminders is creating a more level playing field for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The proportion of good and outstanding primary schools has risen from 69% to 90% in five years."
Now, interestingly, "The overwhelming majority of schools serving primary aged children that we inspect are maintained schools".
Let's pause for a moment to think about what this means. 80% of primary schools are NOT academies but their educational standards are high and rising. So there is no reason for them to become academies, if raising educational standards is the main objective of academisation. Government, however, still expect all schools to become academies in the fullness of time. Lord John Nash at the DfE anticipates a tipping point in 5 years' time.
Wilshaw isn't brave enough to challenge this policy outright but he gets close:
"My advice to government now is to worry less about structures and to worry more about capacity. No structure will be effective if the leadership is poor or there are not enough good people in the classroom."
"Inspection evidence, research and analysis continues to find that, while becoming an academy can be beneficial for some schools, there is not a clear or substantial difference between the performance of academies and schools maintained by local authorities."
"Although the best-known MATs may be large in size and have schools right across the country, the average size of a MAT is only five schools...We estimate that if all schools were to become academies in the longer term and most new academies are to be in MATs, then there may need to be over 900 new MATs of an average size of 10 schools per MAT. Such a substantial change would present a significant challenge for the sector."
I expect Justine Greening is breathing a huge sigh of relief that Wilshaw will be out of her hair by January. Can we expect the new Ofsted head to be as forthright as Sir Michael? I doubt it. Wilshaw was pretty supine for most of his reign, not least because he came from an academy background. It was only after Gove set his attack dogs on Ofsted that Wilshaw grew a pair and started biting back.
At last - Ofsted on governance
Governors can be forgiven for missing an important announcement buried in the footnotes of the report, which has little new to say about the state of governance. It's taken ages to surface but finally we learn that Ofsted's report 'Improving governance: governance arrangements in complex and challenging circumstances', will be available on www.gov.uk/ofsted from mid December 2016.
Can't wait. Well, I can, actually.
He drops a few hints about what the new report will conclude, such as that "governors told us that it is difficult to access high quality professional support and training". Funny, that. Could it possibly be connected to the swingeing cuts to LA school improvement services, including governor training and support, carried out by successive governments in order to fund their obsession with academies? I think it could. In the days when LAs were "Ofsteded", the quality of governor services was nearly universally excellent. Since then, as the expectations of governors have risen dramatically, the funding of services to support them has been slashed to the bone. Will Ofsted's new guidance mention that, I wonder?
Happy Christmas, everyone.
You can see all the articles archived from this page by visiting the News Archive