Ofsted urged to ‘stop criticising and start celebrating’ achievements of failing schools

A new report calls on Ofsted to ‘start celebrating’ the achievements of failing schools

Ofsted should stop criticising failing schools and instead focus on celebrating schools that are most successful in closing the achievement gap in KS2 SATs and GCSEs, according to a new report from the Parliament Street think tank.

The 11,000-word research paper which is published today, entitled The Maths Revolution: The Case for Traditional Arithmetic is written by Tom Burkard, a visiting professor of education policy at the University of Derby, and argues that damning Ofsted reports are often counter productive and add to the workloads of overstretched teachers.

The report also calls for extra funding for teachers to support the teaching of maths and urging the Department of Education and schools to open a dialogue for sharing best practice.

Key recommendations in the report include:

  • Ofsted should stop criticising failing schools–which seldom results in lasting improvements and adds substantially to teachers’ workload – and start celebrating the schools that are most successful in closing the achievement gap in KS2 SATs and GCSEs. These schools should outline their progression and the pedagogies employed, and Ofsted should summarise the most successful practices and publish them.

  • Pupils scoring <30 responses per minute on the Times Table Check should repeat the test at least once annually until they achieve that standard.

  • The Standards and Testing agency should break down KS2 Arithmetic SATs results to reveal which questions were answered correctly by each pupil and this information should be available to secondary schools for the purposes of formative assessment and as a baseline measure for voluntary catch-up programmes. These results should also be available to parents.

  • For the evaluation of progress on catch-up programmes, the Arithmetic paper on each year’s KS2 Maths SATs should be made available to secondary schools that would like to provide evidence of the effectiveness of their programme.

  • Funding should be provided so that teachers from the schools that have proved most successful in closing the gap can be paid to disseminate their strategies. This could take any number of forms, involving the Maths Hubs, ResearchEd, INSET, or publishing information on the DfE website. Contact with other schools should be a two-way street – even the best schools will benefit from feedback.

Burkard commented:

“Pupils are now expected to ‘think like a mathematician’ even if they can’t solve simple arithmetic problems. Just as the synthetic phonics revolution was started over a generation ago by a few brave teachers who rejected the progressive whole language theory that was vigorously promoted in teacher training, we will never get methods that work in real, existing, classrooms unless working teachers are driving that change.

“Ofsted should shift its emphasis from criticising failing schools -which seldom results in lasting improvements- and concentrate on analysing and publishing the strategies employed by our best schools.

“If ministers and officials are to have any hope of ‘closing the gap’ for disadvantaged pupils, Maths teaching in England will need to improve dramatically.”

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