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Coasting Schools Meeting

Coasting schools a "hidden crisis" with pupils failing to reach their full potential

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Prime Minister has held a meeting at Downing Street to address the issue of coasting schools.  A number of experienced heads with a history of addressing educational underperformance were in attendance alongside Education Secretary Michael Gove and Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills.

The Prime Minister has previously shone a spotlight on this area, describing it as a “hidden crisis” because pupils are failing to reach their full potential in schools that ought to support them to achieve their very best.

Ahead of the event, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, said he intends to scrap the ‘satisfactory’ judgment for school inspections. The change to inspections aims to address schools that drift without making progress. His proposals, which will be subject to consultation, would mean that any school that does not provide a good standard of education will be given a new “requires improvement’ grade.

The Prime Minister welcomed Ofsted’s announcement in an open newsletter:

Last year I spoke out about the scandal of coasting schools - the ones that are content to muddle along without trying hard to improve. These might be schools in leafy areas that get above-average results, or schools in inner cities that have seen flat-lining poor results; what links them isn’t the scores they’re getting, but the complacent attitude that says things are OK just as they are.

This year we’re doing something about it. Ofsted have announced today that they’re changing the rating system for schools. It used to be that some schools were labelled ‘satisfactory’. Now they’re abolishing that label and replacing it with a new one: ‘requires improvement’.

This is not some small bureaucratic change. It marks a massive shift in attitude. I don’t want the word ‘satisfactory’ to exist in our education system. “Just good enough” is frankly not good enough. Every teacher, every head and every school should be aiming for excellence - no lower.

These words are being backed by action. Schools that ‘require improvement’ will be re-inspected within 12-18 months - instead of the 3-year break between inspections they’ve had in recent years. And the bar of expectation is getting higher too.  Schools can only be found to ‘require improvement’ twice. At their third inspection they must be rated at least ‘good’ or they will be placed in special measures.

To those who say that this will alienate some schools, I say we’ve got to stop making excuses and start doing what is best for our children: demanding excellence and confronting complacency wherever we find it.

Making this change of attitude felt on the ground, in classrooms, will be a massive team effort. That’s why this afternoon I’m holding a meeting in Downing Street with some of the country’s most inspiring head-teachers, as well as Sir Michael Wilshaw, the new head of Ofsted. In his previous job as head of Mossbourne Academy in Hackney, Sir Michael said ‘no’ to complacency and failure, and turned that school around. Now he’s going to help us drive the nationwide transformation of our schools.

Be in no doubt: this is a government that is incredibly ambitious for all the children in our country - and we will fight for them to get the best start in life.

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Published 17 January 2012