Are schools in deprived areas falling as ‘far behind’ as Ofsted suggest?

A recent review from Tes has found that there is a clear correlation between Ofsted ratings and the socio-economic position of an area. It perhaps comes as no surprise that pupils living in the more affluent areas are more likely to go to an outstanding school as rated by Ofsted.
Figures obtained and presented by Tes show that 37% of schools in the most affluent areas of the country are graded as outstanding, whilst only 5% reach the same level as the more deprived areas. At the other end of the scale, only 1% of schools in affluent areas are rated inadequate, compared with 5% in the more deprived regions.
Ofsted chief inspector, Amanda Spielman, told the Festival of Education in Berkshire, “schools in these areas struggle with teacher recruitment. There are fewer local academy sponsors and there is less access to leadership support through national leaders of education and through teaching schools.”
She added, “I have nothing but admiration for the teachers who make it their mission to tackle disadvantages. But the overall effectiveness of a school is not an effort grade,” as reported by the BBC.
Currently, Ofsted assess schools on key areas such as the effectiveness of leadership and management; quality of teaching, learning and assessment; personal development and welfare; outcomes for pupils.
Yet Colin Harris, a former Headteacher writing for Tes, argues that such criteria does not take into account all of the work taking place to ensure pupils have access to high-quality teaching and learning in school. He stated, “for some schools, a normal start to the day involves phoning pupils’ homes, delivering children to lessons, dealing with their clothing and nutritional needs, providing emotional support and coping with mental health issues. But much of this does not register when schools are being inspected.”
With data suggesting that there is an even wider gap between the ratings of schools in predominantly ‘white British areas’, Stephen Tierney, chairman of Heads’ Roundtable, told Tes, “my view is that leading a school with a large percentage of disadvantaged white boys is statistically a career ender.”
Amanda Spielman added, “what our inspection outcomes do is to act as a call for action in these areas. A call for the right kind of support and intervention.” Many schools have benefitted from such support that can be accessed through Evolve Health Mentors who provide physical and emotional health and wellbeing sessions to pupils across the country, particularly in a number of deprived areas.
Yet the argument from a number of school staff working in these areas is that Ofsted should add more context to their inspections. With “these schools having a harder job to do than others”, as suggested by the Ofsted chief inspector, there are calls for further weighting to be placed on the efforts going into transforming these schools.