England’s schools failing white working-class children

Dec 8, 2013 by

Sir Michael Wilshaw’s annual report will condemn ‘unacceptable waste of human potential’

White working-class children are being written off far too often in England’s schools, Ofsted’s chief inspector will warn this week.

Sir Michael Wilshaw will on Wednesday blame teachers’ low expectations and a failure to instil the right learning culture for holding back improvements in the education system. In Ofsted’s second state of the nation annual report, he will say that attainment levels for white children from poorer families, in particular, have improved more slowly than for all other ethnic groups since 2007.

Following damning international league tables published last week, Wilshaw will describe this as “an unacceptable waste of human potential” storing up huge future costs for the country. The warning follows publication of the latest edition of the programme for international student achievement (Pisa) from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which put the UK in the middle of the international rankings.

Its position was virtually unchanged from the last exercise in 2009, with slight improvements in the reading and maths scores of 15-year-olds offset by a small drop in science. However, Wilshaw is expected to claim that the “battle against mediocrity” in England’s education system is gradually being won. Nearly eight out of 10 state schools are now judged good or outstanding – the highest proportion in Ofsted’s 20-year history.

He will claim that standards are being driven up by better teaching and leadership in schools. He will also claim that there has been a galvanising impact from a tougher inspection regime – including his decision to replace the “satisfactory” grade with a new “requires improvement” judgment.

But he will also highlight a number of factors he believes are preventing the nation moving up the international rankings, including poverty of expectation and a tolerance by some teachers of low-level disruption in the classroom. He will make the case that widespread regional variation in school performance is a brake on progress, while describing England as a “patchwork of provision”. Some deprived areas provide an excellent standard of education, he will say, while other, more affluent regions are letting their children down.

Schools in the east of England, where primaries perform worse than in any other part of the country, are expected to receive severe criticism. This is in stark contrast to the situation in London, which Wilshaw will say was an “educational basket case” in the 1970s and 80s but has enjoyed huge improvements in recent years, as reported by Alan Milburn’s social mobility commission

Wilshaw, a former headteacher of a London secondary school, will announce that seven of the nine local authority areas in England where every secondary school is judged good or outstanding are in the capital. Areas such as Coventry and Derby, which trailed in last year’s primary school league tables, will be seen to have made substantial progress since being put under Ofsted’s spotlight a year ago. For the first time, Ofsted will be publishing reports on standards in each of the regions and will launch an online tool to highlight the often stark differences in school and college performance between local authority areas that share similar demographic characteristics.

In a speech to accompany the report, he will say Ofsted does not favour a particular teaching style but is only interested in how much useful learning goes on in the classroom.

via Ofsted chief says England’s schools failing white working-class children | Education | The Observer.

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