In September 2012 Ofsted reached its 20th anniversary. Twenty years ago, we did not know what the state of the nation was in terms of the quality of its provision, because only very small numbers of schools and colleges were inspected each year in a much less rigorous and transparent system.
Our remit has grown enormously. Ofsted inspects childminding and pre-school provision, schools, learning and skills and children’s social care. Through inspection we make a significant contribution to improvement. We have come a long way, but we must not be complacent. Real challenges lie ahead of us.
For example, access to good education and training is far too dependent on where you happen to live. This is unacceptable.
A child’s chances of getting into a good or better school are twice as good in some local authority areas than in others.
In the case of learning and skills provision generally, too many young people take courses leading to qualifications that have little currency with employers. In their drive to operate as commercial enterprises, some learning and skills providers have lost their vocational compass.
Our schools are improving. The big question is, whether they are improving at a rate to match the best countries across the world?
What does Ofsted Outstanding look like?
We know through inspection what Ofsted outstanding provision looks like. In schools and colleges it’s excellent teaching, accurate assessment, the tracking of student progress and strong governance and leadership.
Indeed, it is heartening to note the growing extent to which the most capable leaders and teachers are successfully helping other schools to raise their standards. Teaching is a highly skilled and increasingly technical craft and schools invest a lot of time in training, coaching and mentoring to help teachers to become more and more effective.
We have a significant number of good and better schools: schools that are focused on their core purpose; schools that pupils want to attend and which parents are pleased with. This is the prevailing picture.
Why isn’t every school Ofsted Outstanding?
But unfortunately there are still schools, colleges and other providers that are not providing acceptable provision. Their expectations may be too low, their governance may be too weak and teaching too inconsistent to move the school forward.
In early years and childcare provision, success lies in having well qualified early years staff who really do understand the importance of learning development at the foundation stage. There is an urgent need for well trained and qualified people in domestic and non-domestic provision.
Over a third of children in early years and childcare provision are not being prepared sufficiently for school in communication, language and literacy.
Too many young people enter adulthood with low literacy and numeracy skills because they have not acquired basic skills in the early stages of education.
Colleges have become too focused on attracting as many students as possible into courses, regardless of their quality or value to employers. Learners and apprentices are gaining qualifications that don’t translate into work.
The quality of teaching in the learning and skills providers inspected last year was simply not good enough, particularly in general further education colleges.
The learning and skills sector must be more determined to provide high quality programmes of study, including reputable apprenticeships, particularly for the 16 to19 age range.
Social Care Inspection
The sector report on social care will be published in summer 2013 because the inspection year for most social care provision runs from April to March.
At the beginning of this year we introduced a number of radical framework changes covering much of our social care inspection activity.
I won’t reflect further on social care until we have a full year’s inspection outcomes. But no one should doubt that I regard my responsibilities for social care inspection, focusing as it does on outcomes for the most vulnerable and the most disadvantaged of children, as amongst the most important duties that I carry.
As Chief Inspector, I can see at first-hand how our inspection system ensures much greater accountability in those institutions we inspect.
We need to show where the needs are, and what works best in meeting them. This Annual Report will contribute to our shared determination as a country to achieve a world class education system
Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector
Ofsted Outstanding Annual Report 2011/12
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