Ofsted announces major review of access and achievement in education

In a speech to the National College annual conference in Birmingham on Friday, Sir Michael Wilshaw, HMCI, launched a major new review of access and achievement in education. The review will focus on the issues facing deprived communities and will aim to provide radical new solutions to what are long standing and deep seated problems.

Addressing the audience of headteachers and school leaders Sir Michael said:

‘Twenty years ago, Ofsted produced a landmark report entitled Access and Achievement in Urban Education, which described the lack of educational success and the paucity of good-quality provision in deprived communities. Ten years later, David Bell, the then Chief Inspector of Schools, marked the anniversary by producing another report under the same headline. What was so depressing was that his report painted a similarly bleak picture of underperformance in these same communities.

‘I am asking the educational leaders of this country to take ownership of the situation and show the leadership needed to change the learning landscape. Everyone who agrees that all children deserve a good education needs to work in partnership to introduce the radical solutions needed today to make a real difference for the children of tomorrow.’

The original report, published in 1993, gave recommendations for closing the gap on the educational achievements of children from rich and poor backgrounds in the English education system. Based on evidence collected from visits to schools, youth and adult education providers in Bristol, Derby, Kingston-Upon-Hull, Manchester, Slough, Thamesmead and Thurrock the report painted a bleak picture of the quality of education received by the majority of children and young people at the time.

In 2003, David Bell, the then HMCI, published Access and Achievement in Urban Education: 10 years on, which collected data from 1000 schools serving areas of urban deprivation and having more than 35% of their pupils on free school meals. The 2003 report identified a lack of progress in most of the schools covered by the 1993 study and pointed to some common features such as high pupil turnover and difficulties in teacher recruitment preventing schools from improving sufficiently.

The programme of work to inform Access and Achievement in Urban Education: 20 years on, will include a review panel of leading heads and academic experts who will seek to answer five key questions:

  • Why are some children and young people more affected by socio-economic and educational disadvantage than others?
  • What more can be done by parents and education providers to ensure the best possible start for those that need it most?
  • Some schools are doing a great job for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. So what can we learn from them and how can we ensure that many more schools do as well as the best?
  • Schools and colleges have greater autonomy now over their policies and use of resources. So how do we secure effective coordination and improvement of local education services in areas of the greatest educational need?
  • What more needs to happen to ensure that young people from disadvantaged backgrounds achieve success in employment and as citizens?

The expert panel will include representation from schools, local authorities, academia and the third sector.

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