Sunday, June 23, 2013


Three pontifications below from Britain's chief inspector of schools.  He is sound on some things but seems to have veered off into dreamland lately

Private schools must do more to help state pupils, says British school chief

Leftist nonsense.  It is not playing fields that make a difference.  It is what is in the brain -- including character and personality

Sir Michael Wilshaw demanded that independent schools fulfil their moral "duty" to the rest of society by allowing state pupils to attend their classes, use their sports facilities and receive coaching for Oxbridge interviews.

Ofsted’s chief inspector said he was issuing a “direct challenge” to independent school head teachers to shed their “splendid isolation”. He suggested that more private schools should enter formal partnerships with state comprehensives.

Sir Michael’s broadside, delivered at a conference at Wellington College, a highly regarded independent school in West Berkshire, provoked dismay from private school heads, who said they were already doing many of the things that he wanted.

Sir Michael, formerly the head of a state academy in east London, said the gulf in exam results between children of the rich and the poor was “depressingly persistent”.

“The independent sector must do more to help meet the national imperative to raise standards,” he told The Sunday Times Festival of Education, hosted at the college.

“I’m issuing a direct challenge to independent school heads. You have got to talk much more about supporting your counterparts in the state sector than you do already – and translate that talk into action.”

Sir Michael dismissed the argument that parents paid good money for the best private education.

“To those who say, ‘parents pay £30,000 a year for the privilege’, I’d ask if they really want their children marooned on an island of privilege that does not reach out to the mainland?” he said.

Private schools such as Eton and Wellington have led the way in engaging with state funded schools to raise standards, and both have sponsored the government’s academies, he said.

However, the independent Repton School opened a new branch in Dubai when it should have considered supporting state education on its doorstep in Derby, the chief inspector said.

“The conferment of privilege should not denote exclusivity, but an implied duty to help the wider community,” he said. “A fundamentally unequal society is no good for any of us in the long term.

“What does it take to put two children from the comprehensive down the road into science classes at an independent school?

“What does it take for the coaching and support for applications to our most prestigious universities to be spread more widely?”

Sir Michael’s comments were attacked by the Independent Schools Council, representing more than 1,200 private schools across the UK.

Matthew Burgess, General Secretary of the Independent Schools Council said:

“Sir Michael appears disappointingly out of touch with the breadth and depth of partnership activity between the sectors.

“More than 90 per cent of all ISC schools are already living up to his challenges of cross-sector professional development, opening up lessons and facilities to pupils outside the independent sector and supporting children aspiring to go to our best universities.”

Ofsted, the government's education watchdog, inspects all state schools in England and some independent schools.

However, the majority of established private schools are monitored by an independent inspectorate.

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, backed Sir Michael’s argument, telling the same conference that while some private schools have helped raise standards in the state sector, “more should”.

“Independent schools are free institutions. They must decide themselves. But in the same way that you're free to make a decision, I'm free to make a judgement about how you exercise the responsibilities that come with privilege,” he said.

“They have a leadership role now in helping to support the state education system.

“I just think that to use a vogue internet phrase, people should check their privilege.”


Ofsted warns top schools to do more to help deprived children or face being downgraded in assessments

This is garbage.  There will be some low IQ children in all areas

Outstanding schools in leafy suburbs and other affluent areas will be stripped of their status unless they do more to help deprived children.

The warning was issued by chief schools inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw, who said thousands of disadvantaged pupils - an ‘invisible minority’ - are being ignored by the education system.

It means over-subscribed schools that are otherwise deemed highly successful by inspectors could be downgraded to ‘good’ or even ‘requires improvement’ - the third lowest of four ratings.

The Ofsted boss accused them of ‘complacency’ by focusing on more able students while cultivating ‘low expectations’ in others.

Inspectors would ‘visit and revisit’ them until there was improvement, he warned.

Sir Michael said under-achievement was no longer a problem among ethnic minorities in inner-cities.

Instead, it is now most pronounced among white working class boys and girls - who make up two-thirds of all schoolchildren receiving free school meals (FSM), a key indicator of deprivation.

Most of these under-performing pupils are in suburbs, market towns and seaside resorts where they are being let down by ‘timid’ school leaders and local authorities.

‘Often they are spread thinly, as an “invisible minority” across areas that are relatively affluent,’ he said.

‘These poor, unseen children can be found in mediocre schools the length and breadth of our country. They are labelled, buried in lower sets, consigned as often as not to indifferent teaching.

‘They coast through education until, at the earliest opportunity, they sever their ties with it.’ In a radio interview earlier in the day he confirmed top schools were also letting pupils down.

‘The problems now are in schools, good schools, outstanding schools, in county areas, with small proportions of poor children that are doing extremely badly,’ he said.

He singled out West Berkshire, which has the worst record for pupil attainment in the whole country at primary level.

The area, which includes Wokingham and Newbury, is also second worst for secondary schools and in the bottom three local authorities for qualifications at 19.

Other prosperous parts of the country that need improvement include Norwich, Hastings, Shropshire and Herefordshire.

Sir Michael’s speech accompanied a report, Unseen Children: Access and Achievement, which revealed 15 local authorities where only a quarter of children on FSM achieved five good GCSEs.

Nationally, 59 per cent of children reach that level, compared to 36 per cent on FSM.

The former headteacher set out eight recommendations to close the gap, including removing a school’s outstanding rating if FSM pupils fall significantly behind others and increasing the number of inspections it has.

Even those with small numbers of deprived pupils would be affected.

He also called for top teachers and heads to be centrally employed as National Service Teachers who could be parachuted into failing schools or areas.  In return, they would receive large pay rises and promotions would be fast-tracked.

Regional schemes where excellent headteachers would share their expertise with less successful schools were also needed, he said, and assessments of reception year pupils and post-16 students should be extended.

‘There are stark consequences for our nation if we do not act with sufficient urgency,’ Sir Michael added.  ‘We will continue to lose our place as a competitive nation and hear great economic costs of failure.’

Ofsted has produced the reports every ten years since 1993 but the next report will now be produced in 2018.

Unions welcomed the focus on children from deprived backgrounds but questioned the chief inspector’s conclusions.

NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: ‘Ofsted’s repeated fault-finding and insinuation that the challenges faced by the education system are largely the result of teachers’ low expectations for their pupils are wholly unjustified.’

Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg said Labour would ‘ensure all schools work together to raise standards for every child’.

The Coalition government has introduced the pupil premium - an extra payment to schools per pupil on FSM - to close the achievement gap.

The Department for Education said it would be looking at the recommendations.


Ofsted calls for major change in primary school tests

Wilshaw is on a whole crusade of nonsense.  Ability testing has some power at the beginning of school education but not much.  Age 11 is about the earliest practicable

Children should be tested in basic language and literacy skills before they even start formal education, the head of Ofsted has said.

Sir Michael Wilshaw warned that the assessment of pupils' grasp of the current nursery-age curriculum is “too broad” and comes “too late” at the end of the first year of primary school.

He called for a “major change” in the way young children are tested, with more external moderation, and the publication of results showing how well pupils progress.

Sir Michael, Ofsted’s chief inspector, even raised the question of a return to externally marked Sats for all seven year-olds in England to restore rigour to primary education.

However, he acknowledged that this was unlikely to win political support from ministers.

Sir Michael’s blueprint for a new testing system in primary schools is aimed at closing the gulf in achievement between the poorest children, who are often from working-class, white British families, and their more affluent classmates.

Evidence suggests that children growing up in deprived homes start to fall behind their peers by the age of five and the gap widens in later years.

In a speech in London, Sir Michael said testing children at the end of their first “reception” year in primary school was “too late”.

“Children may have lost a vital year of learning by then,” he said. “Major change is necessary in our approach to assessment in the early years.

“Children who fall behind in the early years of their life struggle to catch up. If by seven, children cannot read, the odds are stacked against them,” he said. “The bad news is that many children still don’t get the support they need to make a secure start. This is particularly true of children from our poorest families.”

Sir Michael said the current nursery curriculum, known as the Early Years Foundation Stage, was too broad.

Assessments cover physical coordination, and social development, managing feelings, self-confidence, and using technology, as well as basic English and maths skills.

In the best schools, children are tested earlier and the assessments focus on “key skills” that pupils will need in order to learn, such as communication, language and literacy, Sir Michael said.

Teachers assess children for these purposes by observing child-led activity as well as work that staff themselves initiate.

By the age of five, children are expected to be able to write sentences of phonetically plausible words, with some spelt correctly, as well as to count from one to 20.

Sir Michael demanded more external moderation of assessments in early primary school.

Externally marked national tests for seven year-olds have been replaced by teacher assessments. But grades should be more rigorously aligned across schools, he said.

Children's progress rates between the ages of four and seven should be published, he suggested. Results could be compiled into school league tables.

Lord Knight of Weymouth, a former Labour schools minister, expressed reservations over the reform. He said monitoring children’s physical and social development was “really important” in building the resilience of children from deprived homes.

In his speech, Sir Michael announced that “outstanding” schools which fail their poorest children could be stripped of their top rating.

Some of the country’s best state schools in affluent areas, such as West Berkshire and Shropshire, are achieving good results for middle-class pupils but are giving those from the poorest homes a “raw deal”, he warned.


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