annual report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools. The
report, published today, draws upon evidence from inspections that
took place during the academic year 2003/04 and also comments upon
In the report's commentary, chief inspector David Bell points to a long term trend of improvement in education and examines the key factors contributing to this success as well as the problems that threaten to undermine it.
Particular successes evident during 2003/04 and highlighted in the
annual report include an improved quality of care and education for
young children; a strong cadre of headteachers in schools;
improvements in school self-evaluation; improved flexibility in the
curriculum for 14 to 16 year olds and the continuing success of sixth
Issues of concern include the continuing difference in progress
between different groups of pupils; slow progress in reducing the gap
in achievement between schools with high and low levels of
disadvantage, and no reduction in the proportion of schools where
behaviour overall is unsatisfactory. The quality of assessment
continues to be the weakest aspect of teaching.
Mr Bell identifies four factors that are underpinning long-term
improvement as well as the major issues of concern that could prevent
the education system fulfilling the potential of every learner. The
first factor underpinning improvement is a widely-held recognition
that education needs to be broad and balanced: nurturing pupils as
individuals while preparing them to fulfil their responsibilities and
appreciate society's diversity.
Mr Bell said:
'My own longstanding beliefs about the value of a rounded education
are based on the superb grounding that I received as a pupil in a
comprehensive school. Ofsted's evidence demonstrates conclusively
that commitment to curriculum breadth and balance, as well as
personal opportunity and responsibility, is increasingly the norm in
our state schools. This commitment is the bedrock of further and
Mr Bell identified the expansion in childcare places, matched by
improvements in quality, as the second factor helping to benefit
children. Almost all childcare is at least satisfactory, and
increasingly good, and early education for three to four years olds
in day care providers funded by the government is mostly good.
The education sector's ambitions to do better and to tackle failure
were also identified by Mr Bell as the third and fourth success
factors. Over the last ten years a focus on the basics of English,
mathematics and science has resulted in improved standards, and test
results for 2004 show that this progress has been maintained at the
same time as other improvements in primary schools have been made.
Mr Bell identifies two major issues of concern that could prevent the
education system fulfilling the potential of every learner: the
impact of social class and the continuing variability in performance
of schools and colleges.
Mr Bell said:
'I was the first from my family to attend university. I find it
troubling that over 25 years later many of our least advantaged young
people still believe that higher qualifications are beyond their
reach. However, pilot projects providing a more vocationally
orientated curriculum at Key Stage 4 are helping to re-engage the
missing 40 per cent of youngsters who do not achieve 5+ A*-C GCSEs.
'About 1,000 schools are not making sufficient progress between
inspections. Over the last three years 10 per cent of schools
inspected have not improved enough.'
However, for 393 schools and colleges identified in today's Annual
Report the story is one of outstanding achievement. They stand out as
having done particularly well on virtually all fronts, or as having
achieved highly against the odds. Colleges listed in the report are
very well led and provide a consistently high standard of education
and training for their students. The annual report also lists well
over 100 schools that improved so significantly that they were
removed from special measures during 2003/04.
After several years in which National Curriculum test results have
been static, 2003/04 results for Key Stages 1 and 2 show a little
improvement. However, the gap in achievement between core and other
foundation subjects, and between boys and girls, remains a concern.
Achievement for primary age pupils is not as good in the foundation
subjects - particularly geography and religious education - as in the
core subjects of English, mathematics and science. Information and
communication technology (ICT) continues to improve, but it is still
the subject where there is most underachievement.
Teaching continues to be strongest for nursery-age children and
pupils in Year 6; it is weakest in Years 1, 3 and 4 and there is too
much variation in the quality of teaching across subjects. The
proportion of schools where teaching is only satisfactory or
unsatisfactory is slightly higher than last year at just over a
quarter of schools.
Pupils' achievements in Key Stage 3 National Curriculum tests have
improved, but unevenly, and there has also been a slight improvement
in GCSE results. There is a pressing need to tackle literacy and
numeracy for pupils in Year 7 who have not reached the expected level
in their primary schools, if these pupils are to achieve academic and
personal success in their secondary schools.
Greater variety in Key Stage 4 programmes, particularly the provision
of vocational courses, is increasing pupils' motivation. However, the
report points out a number of concerns in the secondary curriculum.
Citizenship is the worst taught subject at secondary level, there has
been a decline in the take-up of modern foreign languages and
geography at Key Stage 4, and the requirements for ICT are not being
met in a significant proportion of schools.
In colleges the quality of provision was slightly better in 2003/04
than the previous year, but the pace of improvement is slow and there
has been an increase in the proportion of colleges judged inadequate.
Sixth form colleges continue to be highly successful in almost all
aspects of their work. Educational provision for 14-19 year olds in
areas, vulnerable young people in young offender institutions and
children in secure children's homes remains too variable.
Attendance in primary schools has shown a slight improvement but is
still unsatisfactory in a quarter of schools. Often this is where
schools are not supported sufficiently by parents in ensuring their
children are punctual and attend school regularly. Unauthorised
absence rose slightly in secondary schools to 1.14 per cent.
In primary schools pupils' attitudes to school are almost always
positive and behaviour is good. Schools generally work hard to
promote good relationships and almost all deal successfully with
bullying and racism. In secondary schools the great majority of
pupils continue to behave well, but behaviour overall is
unsatisfactory in nine per cent of secondary schools. The proportion
of schools where behaviour is unsatisfactory shows no sign of
reducing. Serious incidents remain rare; most unsatisfactory
behaviour involves low level disruption.
By the end of 2003/04, 50 more schools were subject to special
measures than at the same time the previous year. 213 schools became
subject to special measures compared with 160 in 2002/03 - an
increase of 30 per cent. By July 2004, 332 schools were in special
measures, representing an increase of 18 per cent on the previous
July's figure. In all, 1.5 per cent of English schools are subject to
Explaining this increase, Mr Bell said:
'School inspections are more rigorous. In September 2003 we
introduced a new school inspection framework that set new
expectations of schools. As the performance of schools has improved
over the years it is only right that we should have higher
expectations. Not to do so would be to condemn youngsters to a
standard of education that might have been acceptable 10 years ago
but is clearly no longer so.'
Since 1993 just under 1,800 schools have required special measures
but the vast majority have improved, with some going on to be praised
as outstanding in subsequent annual reports. Almost 60 per cent of
schools from which special measures have been removed have become
good schools by the time they were inspected two years later. Seven
schools in this year's list of outstanding schools were once in
Mr Bell said:
'The progress that some 60 per cent of former special measures
schools have made to be judged good or better is testimony to the
hard work of their headteachers, staff, pupils and governors and
proves that special measures are the first step on the road to
recovery for failing schools.'
In conclusion Mr Bell said:
'We have moved from a system that educated a few superbly, and the
rest indifferently, to one that is attempting to educate everyone
very well. Those who criticise improving test results and GCSE grades
as evidence of 'dumbing down' are really only interested in those at
the top end of the academic scale and are paying lip service to
having an education system that meets the needs of all.
'In a modern democracy it is essential that the education system
maximises the talent of all. It is possible to offer greater
challenge and rigour to the most academically able while ensuring
that a vocationally relevant curriculum becomes a genuine alternative
for the many.'
Schools minister Stephen Twigg has welcomed Ofsted's confirmation in
its annual report that the government has made significant progress
in education in recent years.
Mr Twigg said:
'I welcome this report and in particular the chief inspector's view
that we now have an improving education system and one that has in
place many of the preconditions for further improvement.
'We have made significant progress throughout the system: we have a
firm foundation in early years; our reform programme is ambitious and
is delivering a general trend of improvement; the focus on primary
maths, English and science is a success story, with progress
maintained in 2004; we are successfully tackling school failure; and
the quality of teaching and leadership in our schools is good.
'The report gives us no room to be complacent. I am determined that
we must break the link between disadvantage and achievement. The
fundamental aim of both the Primary and the Key Stage 3 National
Strategies is to ensure that all pupils have the opportunity to
achieve regardless of their circumstances.
'We are seeing the fastest improvements at GCSE in some of the most
deprived areas through initiatives such as Excellence in Cities and
London Challenge. London is now ahead of the national average for the
number of students getting five good GCSEs and in Gateshead the
number of pupils achieving the same standard has increased by 19
percentage points since 2000.Nationally there are now only 71 schools
below the 20% floor target compared with 112 in 2003 and 361 in 1997.
'We must now rise to the challenge of improving the vocational offer
and reducing drop-out rates beyond GCSE. These were some of the major
challenges addressed by Mike Tomlinson and his 14-19 Working Group,
which the government will be responding to in the forthcoming white
'I am pleased to note that pupil behaviour remains good or better in
most schools and incidents of serious misbehaviour remain rare, with
our Behaviour Improvement Programme proving effective. Of course,
any poor behaviour is too much and should not be tolerated, and the
secretary of state yesterday underlined her support for schools to
take a zero tolerance approach in tackling low level disruption of
lessons caused by a minority of pupils.'
Mr Twigg also noted the following key points from the report:
* 15 per cent growth in quality childcare places
* The majority of primary schools are good or better and about 20 per
cent are highly effective
* Most secondary schools are demonstrating leadership at a good or
* The majority of secondary schools that are found to be failing are
judged as good on re-inspection
* Improved flexibility that we have introduced at 14-16 has motivated
more young people to gain the recognition they deserve for their
achievements at GCSE.
* School sixth forms and colleges provide successfully for students,
especially at A-level
The annual report is available here.