News and Support from The NASUWT
Commenting on the speech today by HMCI Sir Michael Wilshaw on the performance of disadvantaged children, Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union, said:
“Teachers and school leaders remain absolutely clear that there can be no complacency in working to ensure that all children and young people, particularly the most vulnerable and disadvantaged, are given every opportunity to fulfil their full potential as learners.
“Ofsted’s repeated fault-finding and insinuation that the challenges faced by the education system are largely the result of teachers’ low expectations for their pupils are wholly unjustified by evidence and simply do not withstand any serious scrutiny.
“It is important to recognise and celebrate the significant achievements of the education system over the last decade in narrowing achievement gaps across the country.
“To cast these achievements in the language of ‘failure’ is therefore a gross misrepresentation of the progress that continues to be made in addressing long-standing issues of educational inequality.
“No one, least of all teachers, would deny that narrowing achievement gaps still further must remain a key priority and that work must continue to build on the successes secured to date.
“However, Ofsted must recognise that the school accountability regime, in which it plays a central role, has worked to undermine efforts to narrow achievement gaps.
“Its disproportionate focus on the proportion of pupils achieving threshold levels of performance in SATs and GCSEs, and then downgrading the equality dimensions of inspection, undermines approaches aimed at narrowing achievement gaps.
“In many respects, schools have narrowed achievement gaps in spite of the Ofsted inspection framework and not because of it.
“Effective strategies for tackling educational inequality adopted in some large conurbations depend critically on substantial and focused investment and collaborative structures.
“The Coalition Government’s relentless drive to fragment the education system, to foster competition rather than genuine partnership between local schools, and to demolish system-wide pay and conditions frameworks for teachers, undermine approaches to tackling achievement gaps which have a proven record of effectiveness.
“It is also ironic that, just as the Chief Inspector advocates the development of a cadre of teachers focused on outreach work in schools facing achievement gap challenges, the Coalition Government has abolished, with effect from September 2013, the Advanced Skills Teacher (AST) role which was designed to do exactly that.
“ASTs were outstanding practitioners who had outreach as the central focus of their work and, according to Ofsted’s own research, represented a highly effective means of supporting and sustaining school improvement.”