‘Nothing short of a scandal’: Ofsted chief condemns 500 underperforming schools

Amanda Spielman warned of ‘a betrayal of children’s futures’
Education Correspondent

The existence of nearly 500 “stuck” schools – which have been underperforming for more than a decade – is “nothing short of a scandal”, the chief inspector of Ofsted has said.

A number of interventions in some of these struggling schools – which have a higher proportion of poor white British pupils – have not improved the quality, Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of the schools’ watchdog, said.

She warned these poorly performing schools mean some children “may have no opportunity to attend a good school at any point in their education” and added: “This is nothing short of a scandal and is a betrayal of children’s futures.”

Ms Spielman made the remarks in a letter to the Public Accounts Committee, where she revealed that Ofsted will carry out research into why interventions have been ineffective in some schools.

An analysis from Ofsted found 490 “stuck” schools – those that have been judged below the level of “good” in every inspection since 2005. The proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals and the number of poor white British pupils in these schools is also well above the national average.

In the letter, where she outlined the major risks to the quality of education, Ms Spielman reiterated her concerns about the increasing number of children being removed from mainstream schools – which is widely known as “off-rolling”.

She called on the government to introduce a compulsory register for children who are in home education, warning that some parents use home education as a “guise” for illegal schools. And in some unregistered schools, inspectors have found extremist literature “calling for the death of gay people”, as well as texts advocating men beating their wives, she added.

Ms Spielman also acknowledged that cuts to further education funding have affected the quality of the provision and she called on the government to increase spending on the post-16 sector.

However on schools funding, she wrote that while “funding is a major topic of concern in the sector ... inspectors are not seeing an impact on education standards”.

The letter follows a damning report from MPs last month that said it was “unacceptable” that hundreds of outstanding schools have not been visited by Ofsted inspectors for six or more years. Ms Spielman recognised yesterday that top rated schools are the “blind spot” in the system and she renewed calls for outstanding schools to no longer be exempt from routine inspections.