Ofsted 'postcode lottery' warning
Published 27/11/2012 | 10:42
More than two million children are still receiving a sub-standard education, with many youngsters facing a postcode lottery to attend a decent school, Ofsted has warned.
Chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said there are "stark inequities" across England, with a child's chances of being taught at a good school far too dependent on where they live.
Much more must be done to deal with the wide variations in standards he said, in his first annual report. In some areas children have a less than 50% chance of attending a school that is good or better, and it is not just those in poorer areas that are affected, Sir Michael said.
Oxfordshire and East Riding of Yorkshire, which are not considered areas of high deprivation, are among the 20% of local authorities with the lowest proportions of pupils attending a good or better primary, the report says.
"It is absolutely a postcode lottery and we are never going to get a world class system unless we reduce these wide variations," Sir Michael said. While the overall quality of schools has improved in the last few years, this is not consistent across the country. A primary school pupil in England has, on average, a seven in 10 (69%) chance of being in a good or outstanding school, the report says, but elsewhere a child has a better than 90% chance, and in others a less than 50% chance.
The report shows there have been overall improvements in the last few years, with 70% of schools now rated good or outstanding compared with 64% five years ago. An extra half a million pupils are now being taught in good or better schools, it says. But this also means that almost 2.3 million children are still attending a "small minority" of schools that are less than good.
It warns that the overall rise in the performance of England's schools masks real challenges for the education system.
"The inequities are stark," Sir Michael said. "Why is it that a child living in Derby or Doncaster local authority areas has only half the chance of attending a good or better primary or secondary school compared with a child living in Wigan or Darlington? Why is it that Coventry has a smaller proportion of pupils attending good or better primary schools than any local authority area in the country? Do parents realise this? What is being done about it?"
In Oxfordshire just 59% of pupils attend a good or outstanding school, while in East Riding the figure is 55%. Both areas have fewer poor pupils than the national average. At the other end of the scale, in Camden in north London, which has a higher number of poorer children, 92% of pupils are at a decent primary school. Sir Michael said that Ofsted wanted to "shine a spotlight" on the parts of the country that are under-performing - particularly at primary level, which includes examining why some more affluent areas are lagging behind.
"Are these schools coasting simply because they've got significant numbers of children not on free school meals?" he asked. "Should they be doing a lot better? What is the local authority doing to raise standards? Are they using their powers?"