School quality 'a postcode lottery'

Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has said stark inequalities in England's education system must be tackled

Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has said stark inequalities in England's education system must be tackled

First published in National News © by

England's children are victims of a postcode lottery in gaining a decent education, with some facing a less than 50% chance of attending a good school, the Ofsted chief inspector has warned.

More than two million children are still being taught in schools that are not good enough, and a youngster's chance of attending a high-quality school is often too dependent on where they live, Sir Michael Wilshaw said.

In his first annual report, Sir Michael said there are marked inequalities in England's education system that must be addressed. He said: "It is absolutely a postcode lottery and we are never going to get a world class system unless we reduce these wide variations."

While the overall quality of schools has improved in the last few years, this is not consistent across the country. A primary school pupil in England has, on average, a seven in 10 (69%) chance of being in a good or outstanding school, the report says, but in some parts of the country, a child has a better than 90% chance, and in others a less than 50% chance.

Sir Michael pointed out that there is no link between access to a good primary school and how rich or poor an area is. Some of the poorest areas in the country have high numbers of good and outstanding primaries, while there are richer areas that are performing badly.

Oxfordshire, which is not considered an area of high deprivation, is among the 20% of local authorities with the lowest proportions of pupils attending a good or better primary, the report says. Sir Michael declared: "If we aspire as a nation to move towards a world leading system, we have to reduce these serious inequities across the system."

Ofsted's report showed that there have been improvements in the last few years, with 70% of schools now rated good or outstanding compared with 64% five years ago. An extra half a million pupils are now being taught in good or better schools, it said. But this also means that almost 2.3 million children are still attending a "small minority" of schools that are less than good.

In his commentary on the report, Sir Michael said he "worries most about the 30% or so of schools which, at their last inspection, and often before that, were judged to be no better than satisfactory".

In these schools, lessons are often "formulaic", he said, with students that are not fully interested, or being stretched to reach their full potential. The new report warns that the overall rise in the performance of England's schools masks real challenges for the education system, and raises serious concerns about the "marked inequality of access" to a good school across the country.

A primary school pupil in England has, on average, a seven in 10 (69%) chance of being in a good or outstanding school, it said, but in some parts of the country, a child has a better than 90% chance, and in others a less than 50% chance. "The inequities are stark," Sir Michael said.

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