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 2006/07

Not enough being done to narrow the gap

Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills, Christine Gilbert, has called for renewed efforts to narrow the gap and improve the care and education of children and young people who have the odds stacked against them. In her annual state of the nation address she said that not enough was being done to raise achievement and aspirations, particularly for children in public care - but that there was evidence that the gap can be narrowed.

Her first annual report for the new Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) finds a broadly positive picture across education, child care and adult skills.

The Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills 2006/07 highlights that with good provision and support disadvantaged children can make good progress.  But the Chief Inspector warned that more needed to be done.

"The gap between the outcomes for those with advantages in life and those with the least is not reducing quickly enough. Only 12% of 16 years olds in public care achieved five or more good GCSEs in 2006 compared with 59% of all 16 years olds. This cannot be right and we need to do more. There is no quick fix but providers should learn from what works".

The report warns that the relationship between poverty and outcomes for young people is stark. Young people living in the most deprived areas do worst in exams and are less likely to go to university. Schools in deprived areas are more likely to be inadequate than those serving more affluent areas. Children who are eligible for free school meals while in school are still more likely not to be in employment, education or training when they reach adulthood.

But deprivation is not an excuse.  There are many shining examples in the most deprived areas of what can be achieved.  The annual report highlights the impressive efforts of many childcarers, schools, colleges and adult learning providers, some working in the most deprived areas, who are helping disadvantaged people succeed. 

Schools

The general picture for schools is an encouraging one.  Of 6,848 schools inspected in 2006/07, 14% were judged outstanding, up from 11% last year.  A further 46% were good and 34% satisfactory. 

The proportion of all schools judged inadequate fell from 8% to 6% and the proportion of inadequate secondary schools has fallen from 13% to 10%.

Christine Gilbert said:

"Whilst it is encouraging to see an increasing trend in the number of good and outstanding schools, the proportion of schools - 5% of primary and 10% of secondary - in which provision is inadequate continues to be a significant concern.

"In many of these schools pupils progress is hampered by poor basic skills in literacy and numeracy. It cannot be right that 20% of pupils leave primary school without a solid foundation in literacy and numeracy", she said.

"However, there is strong evidence that focussed inspection can be a real driver for improvement and we will continue to focus our work on those schools where outcomes for children are not good enough".

Attendance was generally better in the schools inspected in 2006/07 than in those inspected the year before.  However, concerns remain and poor attendance continues to affect learning.  Behaviour is good or outstanding in 88% of schools; however it is only satisfactory in 29% of secondary schools.

Childcare

Of the 27,000 places offering childcare that were inspected during the year, around 60% provide good or outstanding care and early education for young children but 4% were judged inadequate.  Proving that inspection can be a powerful tool for improvement, 82% of inadequate early education providers reinspected in 2006/07 had improved enough to be judged satisfactory or better. 

"People know the inspector will call back", said Christine Gilbert "and it helps to focus the mind".

Children's services and social care

The majority of children's services are working well together. Where these services are good, they make a real difference to children's lives and their life chances; but there are particular concerns.

Some 78% of local authority children's services were found to be good or outstanding and only 2% were inadequate. But Ofsted's annual report, and a previous report published by the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI), found a number of issues giving cause for concern. For example, children and families do not always get help early enough.

Of the 347 children's homes that have had full inspections since April 2007, over half were good or outstanding, and one in three was satisfactory. But too many, one in seven, were inadequate. Of the 55 inadequate homes, 53 have been given notices to improve and two face action to enforce improvements.  

Previous inspections by the CSCI found that one in three children's homes does not meet standards relating to health, safety and security or to the adequacy of staff.

"There is clearly room for significant improvement", said HMCI "and encouraging signs of what can be achieved, and is being achieved, in outstanding children's homes. Improvement in children's homes can be swift and I draw attention to 16 children's homes judged inadequate in April; on re-inspection by October they are now satisfactory or better".

Further education and adult learning

Further education colleges continue to improve.  We inspected 100 colleges and found 17% to be outstanding and 44% good. Only 3% were inadequate, down from 8% last year. But the proportion of colleges that are only satisfactory, at 35%, is still too high.  Furthermore, almost three-quarters of colleges currently in this category were also judged to be satisfactory at their last inspection and are therefore not improving. 

"Coasting at satisfactory is not acceptable", said Christine Gilbert, "all should aspire to be good or outstanding".

All further education colleges which were inadequate at their previous inspections improved enough to be judged satisfactory or better on re-inspection.

Adult learning continues to improve, but with some significant challenges remaining. It is good to see the adult skills sector is increasingly engaging successfully with employers and widening opportunities for learners. 

"There remains much to be done if the workforce in this country is to be equipped to compete successfully in the global economy of the 21st century.  It cannot be right that over 10% of 16-18 year olds, young people on the cusp of adult life, are not in education, employment or training. That's over 200,000 16 to 18 year olds out of education but without a foot in the world of work. Nor can it be right that people from the most disadvantaged groups are least likely to achieve well and to participate in higher levels of education and training", said HMCI.

Christine Gilbert added:  

"What is clear across the whole of our remit for children, young people and adult learners, is that it is possible to make a real and demonstrable difference. Where providers have an obsession with outcomes, a relentless focus on the individual's needs and pay close attention to what needs to be done to accelerate their progress - the results can be outstanding. We need to learn from what works and be relentless in using inspection to drive improvement and to reform settings - be they child care, day centres, children's homes, schools, colleges or work-based learning - where outcomes simply are not good enough".

Notes For Editors

1.  The Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills 2006/07 is available on the Ofsted website, www.ofsted.gov.uk

2.  The Outstanding Providers List 2006/07, which lists providers judged to be outstanding in 2006/07, and Raising standards, improving lives: The Ofsted Strategic Plan 2007-2010, have been published alongside the Annual Report on the Ofsted website today.

3.  From 1 April 2007 a new single inspectorate for children and learners came into being. The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) has the responsibility for the inspection of adult learning and training - work formerly undertaken by the Adult Learning Inspectorate; the regulation and inspection of children's social care - work formerly undertaken by the Commission for Social Care Inspection; the inspection of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service - work formerly undertaken by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Court Administration; and the existing regulatory and inspection activities of the former Ofsted.

4.  The Ofsted Press Office can be contacted on 08456 4040404 between 8am - 6pm Monday - Friday. During evenings and weekends we can be reached on 07919 057359.

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