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 2007/08

Too many children and young people are receiving services that are ‘patently inadequate’ – especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds – despite broad improvements across schools, children’s services and further education.

That is the picture painted by the Annual Report launched today by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills, Christine Gilbert.

The report covers the first full year of Ofsted’s wider remit - inspecting and regulating education, childcare, social care, children’s services, adult learning and the skills sector – and highlights that:

  • Almost two-thirds of inspected schools are now good or outstanding - up five percentage points from 2005/06
  • The proportion of good or outstanding childcare and early education now stands at record levels, at around two-thirds
  • Around two-thirds of social care providers are judged as good or outstanding but 8% are inadequate
  • Colleges of further education continue to improve, with the proportion of good or outstanding standing at 71%
  • 58% of workplace learning is rated good or outstanding and the best 14-19 partnerships are making a real difference in raising participation and achievement.

But such undoubted improvements do not mean all is well.

Still one in five 11 year olds transfers to secondary school without reaching the expected level in English and maths. And still more than half of all pupils leave schools without five good GCSEs - A*s to Cs, including English and maths. To compare favourably with the best in the world, education in England must do better.

The report warns that poor quality services exist ‘at every stage of the education and care sectors’ for children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, despite positive contributions by initiatives such as children’s centres, Teach First and London Challenge.

For the youngest children, only 51% of childminders were good or outstanding in the 20% of local authority areas that are most deprived, compared with 59% in the rest of the country - while 55% of group day care was good or outstanding compared with 63% elsewhere.

Also, while educational achievement is improving overall, there is too much variation between local areas and in outcomes for disadvantaged groups of pupils and their peers. For example, the attainment gap between pupils who are eligible for free school meals and those who are not has remained broadly constant over the past three years, with the absolute difference between the two groups obtaining five or more GCSE A* to C passes, including English and mathematics, at 27.9 percentage points in 2007.

There are 59,500 children and young people looked after by local authorities, but some 8% of children’s homes are judged to be inadequate, with safeguarding and management the areas most frequently requiring improvement. Concerns remain that staff in some services are less well equipped to recognise and respond to signs of abuse and neglect. In addition, Ofsted evaluations have highlighted the poor quality of many serious case reviews conducted by Local Safeguarding Boards after a child has died or been seriously hurt. Of 92 reviews evaluated since April last year, 38 were judged as inadequate. There are often long delays in producing review findings, severely restricting potential to learn from them.

Commenting on improving life chances for the country’s poorest and most vulnerable children and young people, Christine Gilbert says in the report: “There is a strong link across every sector between deprivation and poor quality provision. This means that children and families already experiencing relative deprivation face further inequity in the quality of care and support for their welfare, learning and development. In short, if you are poor you are more likely to receive poor services: disadvantage compounds disadvantage.

“But it is possible to buck this trend and we see examples of it up and down the country. Typically, the provision that really makes a difference is ambitious. It does not believe that anyone’s past or present circumstances should define their future. Children and learners are put first and treated as individuals; they are supported and expected to make progress and achieve well. Aspirations are high.”

The Chief Inspector sums up:

“This report leaves me encouraged by the recognition that so much is going well for so many children, young people and adult learners; but frustrated that there is still too much that is patently inadequate and too many instances where the rate of improvement is unacceptably slow. Too many vulnerable children are still being let down by the system and we are failing to learn from the worst cases of abuse.

“I intend to focus inspection and regulation where the need for improvement is greatest.”

 

Other report highlights:

Schools

Of the maintained schools inspected in 2007/08, 95% are at least satisfactory but an unacceptable gap remains between the performance of the best and weakest schools.

Almost two thirds of maintained schools inspected are good or outstanding, a slightly higher figure than in 2006/07. However, 9% of secondary schools and 4% of primary schools are inadequate. The proportion of pupil referral units which are at least good in their overall effectiveness is similar to that for all schools, as is the proportion that are inadequate. However, only 7% of pupil referral units are outstanding; the proportion for schools generally is 15%. Of special schools inspected, 80% are at least good, with 26% outstanding.

The large majority of non-association independent schools meet at least 90% of the regulations. Just over half these schools provide a good or outstanding education and pupils’ achievement is good or outstanding in a similar proportion. However, about 3 in 10 of non-association independent schools do not fully meet the requirements for safeguarding pupils. This is a major concern.

 

Childcare and early education

A higher proportion of childcare and early education is good or outstanding this year than in 2006/07 but the level of inadequate childcare remains the same. However, the quality of provision varies across the sector and between areas. Overall, the quality of childcare is not as good in areas of high deprivation as elsewhere.

The majority of providers of childcare and early education inspected are good or outstanding in enabling children to stay safe, be healthy, enjoy and achieve and make a positive contribution.

 

Children’s services and social care

Most social care provided for children in children’s homes, through adoption and fostering agencies and in residential schools is at least satisfactory overall and two thirds is good or outstanding. However, one in 12 providers is inadequate. This is a cause for concern.

There are often long delays in producing the findings of serious case reviews which are commissioned when a child has died, or has been seriously hurt, and abuse or neglect is thought to have been a factor. As a result, the potential for learning from these reviews to improve practice is severely limited. The findings of recent reviews are not always leading to continuous improvement.

Of the children’s homes inspected between July 2007 and August 2008, two thirds are good or outstanding. However, 8% of children’s homes were inadequate at their most recent inspection. Safeguarding and management are the areas most frequently requiring improvement in inadequate children’s homes.

New national minimum standards and regulations for private fostering arrangements came into force in 2005. These standards are not yet fully embedded in practice. Furthermore, inspection indicates that local authorities are inconsistent in the attention and resources they give to monitoring private fostering arrangements.

In secure accommodation for children and young people, the improvements reported last year have been strengthened, especially in standards of behaviour. Most young people leave with some accreditation in essential skills and there is an appropriate emphasis on raising their attainment in literacy and numeracy. However, they have too few opportunities to gain work-related skills.

Most councils and their partners contribute effectively to children’s safety and welfare and to ensuring that they enjoy their education and achieve well. Educational achievement is improving overall but there is too much variation between local areas and between outcomes for some disadvantaged groups of pupils and their peers.

 

Further education and adult learning

In 2007/08 an increased proportion of colleges are good or outstanding and success rates for courses have continued to improve. In six out of 10 colleges students’ achievement is good or outstanding. However, underperforming colleges fail to set challenging targets and too much of the teaching is no better than satisfactory.

Sixth form colleges continue to be highly effective.

In adult prisons, while many offenders are developing good skills for employment, others have too few opportunities to gain nationally recognised qualifications.

Initial teacher education programmes are designed well and trainees are highly motivated and enthusiastic. More should be done to ensure that all trainees promote equality and inclusion in their teaching.

Overall the quality of provision in the learning and skills sector is improving. Given the importance of raising the skills level of the nation in meeting the needs of challenging economic circumstances and a more volatile labour market such improvements need to continue.

 

Cafcass

Inspections of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), which plays an important role in safeguarding children’s welfare in family court proceedings, have been highly critical of the unacceptable variation in the quality of front-line practice, particularly in private law work. Cafcass has developed systems to rectify them but the impact of these new systems on the quality of services is not yet evident.

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Notes for Editors

  1. Social care providers include adoption support agencies, boarding schools, children's homes, further education colleges with a residential element, independent fostering agencies, local authority adoption agencies, local authority fostering agencies, private fostering arrangements, residential family centres, residential special schools and voluntary adoption agencies.
  2. Ofsted inspects all independent schools that are not members of associations affiliated to the Independent Schools Council or Focus Learning Trust – known as non-association independent schools. Member schools are inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) or the Schools Inspection Service (SIS) respectively.
  3. The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects registered childcare and children's social care, including adoption and fostering agencies, residential schools, family centres and homes for children. It also inspects all state maintained schools, non-association independent schools, pupil referral units, further education, initial teacher education, and publicly funded adult skills and employment-based training, the Children and Family Courts Advisory Service (Cafcass), and the overall level of services for children in local authority areas (through annual performance assessments and joint area reviews).
  4. The Ofsted Press Office can be contacted on 08456 404040 between 8.30am and 6.30pm Monday to Friday. During evenings and weekends we can be reached on 07919 057359.

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