School attainment figures on the rise but are struggling schools getting the support they require?

This week, two key sets of statistics have been released with Ofsted publishing their Annual Report and the Department for Education contributing data for school league tables from Key Stage 2 SATs scores.
The headlines suggest that it is good news across the board. Ofsted stated that 90% of primaries and 79% of secondaries are rated as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’, whilst the number of primary school pupils meeting the expected standard in reading, writing and maths has improved from 53% to 61%, according to DfE figures.
Yet academies, part of Michael Gove’s flagship approach to education in 2010, are making less progress than their local authority counterparts. Sponsored academies, introduced in an attempt to raise standards for failing schools, have an average of 55% of pupils reaching the expected standard, compared to the local authority figure of 62%. This difference has increased from 6% to 7% in the last year.
Concerns have also been raised about the figure of 130 schools that have not been rated as ‘good’ at any point since 2015. Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman told Sky News: “What we’re seeing is that an enormous amount of help has been pointed at these schools in different ways but somehow it doesn’t seem to be hitting the spot, it’s not necessarily getting through and changing what happens in the workplace.”
Yet Layla Moran, a former teacher and now Liberal Democrat education spokesperson, suggests that we should not focus purely upon statistics and that reforms need to be made to Ofsted’s approach. She commented: “I know all too well the damage that can be done to the mental wellbeing of pupils who are made to feel that all of their future opportunities in life may hang on the outcome of one short test.”
In an article for Tes, she claims changes in three key areas should be made to our education system:

  1. Ofsted – a more supportive process with a focus on long-term outcomes and issues like teacher wellbeing and retention.
  2. Assessments – more weighting on teacher moderated assessments that takes a snapshot of what is happening in the classroom rather than stand alone tests.
  3. League tables – more focus on qualitative than quantitative data.

Layla Moran’s thoughts would arguably be aligned to those plying their trade within the classroom setting. There is a huge focus on statistics in the current system, underpinned by a sense of fear when the word ‘Ofsted’ is mentioned. The teacher-turned-politician is correct in her thoughts that Ofsted should present themselves as a support mechanism and children need to be seen as a whole package rather than a single figure on a spreadsheet.