Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted)
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The Annual Report of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills 2008/09

A picture of overall improvement in care, education and skills in England is revealed in Ofsted’s Annual Report, launched yesterday by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector, Christine Gilbert.

Bringing together powerful evidence from almost 40,000 inspections carried out during 2008/9, the report acknowledges overall progress and many successes, but also focuses on where improvements must still be made.

It highlights the continuing gap between the best and worst provision for children, young people and adult learners, and challenges those who deliver services that are mediocre or inadequate.

This year’s report coincides with the end of the previous inspection arrangements for schools and colleges and assesses progress since 2005/6 when these arrangements began. Ofsted has now implemented new inspection frameworks in these areas to drive further improvements, with a renewed emphasis on directly observing teaching and learning, and listening to parents and learners.

Using evidence from Ofsted’s inspection findings, the report considers three matters of national importance and interest. The first focuses on what works for one of the most vulnerable groups in society: looked after children. The second looks at an issue at the heart of school and college effectiveness: teaching and learning. And the third tackles head on the challenges faced by the skills sector at a time of economic change and uncertainty.

Nearly seven out of ten of schools were good or outstanding (69%) – more than ever before. The report provides strong evidence of improvement in schools over the past four years. Last year 64% were good or outstanding, up from 59% in 2005/6 when the previous arrangements began. Eleven per cent of maintained schools were judged outstanding in 2005/6 with 8% inadequate; in 2008/9 it was 19% and 4% respectively.

Nearly two thirds of childcare was good or outstanding in 2008/9 (65%), higher than in the previous year, and good news for the hundreds of thousands of children, parents and carers in England. Almost nine out of ten childcare providers previously rated inadequate had improved by their next inspection.

Most local authorities are providing good quality services for looked after children; for example, nearly two thirds of children’s homes were good or outstanding (64%).

The majority of colleges (63%) inspected in 2008/9 were judged good or outstanding, with an increase since 2005/6 in the proportion that are outstanding (20%, compared to 13% in 2005/6).

However, along with celebrating success, Ofsted’s Annual Report highlights where problems continue and shows that much is still to be done to improve the quality of services provided to children, young people and adult learners.

Reflecting on the findings of the Annual Report, Christine Gilbert, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector said:

'I see evidence of sustained improvement and I see excellence in the most difficult of circumstances. But across the range of Ofsted’s remit, there remains too much that is mediocre and persistently so. I am clear of the greatest challenge: to raise the quality of the provision that is only satisfactory to the level of good or outstanding.

'I see no reason why every nursery, every school, college, children’s home, all children’s services and indeed, every provider, should not aspire to be good and to be working towards excellence. That’s what gives children and learners, whatever their age, hope and the belief in themselves to succeed.'

The report also highlights the continuing gap in the quality of services for children and learners in deprived areas. In particular, the quality of childcare is lower overall in deprived areas, and schools with a high proportion of pupils from deprived backgrounds are still more likely to be inadequate. However, some do buck the trend and this year’s report highlights the characteristics of outstanding schools in challenging circumstances.

Explaining these findings, Christine Gilbert, HMCI commented:

'Several common features of these exemplary schools stand out. Above all, there is a passionate and ambitious belief that all young people can be helped to make progress, to achieve and to become successful. There is a real drive in these schools to ensure teaching inspires, challenges and extends pupils.'

A further key element in bringing about improvement is ensuring that children, young people and adults have the literacy and numeracy skills that they need. However, weaknesses remain and while improvements have been made they have been too slow over the last few years.

'Too many young people leave school without adequate basic skills,' said Christine Gilbert 'and this can have a limiting effect on their whole lives'.

'There is still a stubborn core of inadequate teaching and teaching that is only satisfactory. If children are not taught well, they will not rise above low expectations, so the new inspection framework focuses sharply on this issue.'

The current economic climate places even greater emphasis on the importance of the learning and skills sector in ensuring England has the skills to compete in the global market place. Successful providers are being resourceful in meeting the challenges of funding changes and new policy initiatives. They combine clear strategic direction with the capacity to innovate, and have good governance and strong decision-making processes.

With the continued focus on keeping children safe, Ofsted’s report looks at what makes services for looked after children outstanding. The nation’s best services use robust systems that help keep children safe, and take the views of children and young people seriously. Everyone involved, from elected members and senior managers, to front line workers, provide challenge to the system to make it the best it can be. Unfortunately such practice is far from universal.

Christine Gilbert, HMCI, comments:

'Whilst most local authorities are providing good services to protect vulnerable children, there are still too many that are inadequate in this vital respect. If practice for protecting children is poor, the consequences can be devastating.'

Looking at the overall picture, Christine Gilbert, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, comments:

'Ofsted is focused on the interests of the people who rely on the services that we inspect and regulate. We are their voice in the system. Our new inspection frameworks for schools and colleges, and the new inspection processes for inspecting safeguarding and looked after children’s services in local authorities, place a greater emphasis on observing front-line practice and listening to children and young people, adult learners and parents. The experiences of children, young people and adult learners are at the centre of everything we do.

'Ofsted is an agent for improvement, not just of scrutiny and challenge. We promote improvement through: rigorous assessment and critique; professional dialogue throughout inspections; well-crafted and precise recommendations; identifying and sharing good practice; and by celebrating success, as well as exposing failure. We work with the services we inspect, but we work for the children and learners they serve.'

Other report highlights


Between September 2008 and July 2009, 7,065 inspections of maintained schools were carried out in 5,323 primary, 1,071 secondary, 340 special and 147 nursery schools, and in 184 pupil referral units.

Overall 19% of schools were outstanding, 50% good, 28% satisfactory and 4% inadequate.

78% of providers who were outstanding at their previous inspection have sustained this high level of effectiveness. Over half the schools previously judged satisfactory have improved to become good or outstanding. Of those that were found to be inadequate, 90% had improved by the next inspection.

Schools with high proportions of pupils entitled to free school meals are more likely to be inadequate than those with higher proportions of pupils from more advantaged homes. However, a number of schools demonstrate that it is possible to overcome challenging circumstances and are outstanding for at least a second time.

This year Ofsted inspected 394 independent schools, 74 of which were newly registered. Nearly three quarters (74%) provided either good or outstanding education, while 5% were inadequate. One in six of the independent schools we inspected did not fully meet all the safeguarding regulations, and while this is an improvement on the previous year, this figure is still too high.

Childcare and early education

Overall 9% of childcare provision was outstanding, 56% good, 30% satisfactory and 5% inadequate.

73% of providers who were outstanding at their previous inspection have sustained this high level of effectiveness. Of those that were found to be inadequate, 87% had improved by the next inspection.

In deprived areas the quality of childcare provided on non-domestic premises such as nurseries is higher overall than the quality of childminding in people’s homes. In areas which are not deprived there is little difference in quality between the two kinds of provision.

Most childminders have been able to implement the new Early Years Foundation Stage, and a large majority are using it well to support children’s learning and development.

Children’s social care

Overall 10% of children’s homes were outstanding, 54% good, 29% satisfactory and 7% inadequate.

Although inspection outcomes for children’s homes are similar overall to those for 2007/8, the proportion judged inadequate is slightly lower than in 2007/8. The quality of individual children’s homes fluctuates too much and improving the recruitment, retention and development of staff, particularly managers, is a key priority.

Almost all fostering agencies and services inspected during 2008/9 are at least satisfactory and the majority have made improvements since they were last inspected.

The vast majority of adoption agencies and services inspected were at least satisfactory and almost all have improved since they were last inspected.

Overall the pace of improvement in the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) was too slow and the extent of change was insufficient. Front-line practice was inconsistent so that minimum standards, including safeguarding, were not always met. However, Cafcass is taking seriously the scale of the improvements needed and key strategic building blocks are being put in place.

Learning and skills

Of the colleges inspected in 2008/9, 63% were good or outstanding. The level of employer engagement, rates of student progression to higher education or employment and provision for students age 14 to 16 are strengths in the sector.

Only 5% of the work-based learning providers inspected this year were outstanding in their overall effectiveness and just 37% were good.

Of the prisons inspected in 2008/9, the proportion in which education and training were at least satisfactory is higher than in 2007/8, including for the first time one prison in which education and training were outstanding.

Most initial teacher education providers inspected in 2008/9 were good or outstanding in their overall effectiveness. By the end of their training, most trainees met the professional standards at a level which is at least good.

Notes for Editors

1. The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects to achieve excellence in the care of children and young people, and in education and skills for learners of all ages. It regulates and inspects childcare and children's social care, and inspects the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass), schools, colleges, initial teacher training, work-based learning and skills training, adult and community learning, and education and training in prisons and other secure establishments. It assesses council children’s services, and inspects services for looked after children, safeguarding and child protection.

2. Copies of the report and summary versions for different sectors are available online at or from the press office.

3. The Ofsted Press Office can be contacted on 08456 404040 between 8.30am and 6.30pm Monday to Friday. Out of hours we can be reached on 07919 057359.

4. Percentages are rounded and do not always add exactly to 100.

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