Ofsted warns on schools behaviour
Almost half a million children are being taught at secondary schools suffering from poor behaviour, while many bright teenagers are losing out because of a "demotivating" culture, the Ofsted chief inspector has warned.
In his third annual report, Sir Michael Wilshaw raised concerns about the future England's secondary education system, suggesting that standards are stalling.
Too many secondaries are dealing with a "hubbub of interference" due to pupils gossiping, shouting out, using their phones and general low-level disruption in class, he said.
At the same time, high numbers of secondary schools are struggling to stretch their brightest pupils, with a "worrying lack of scholarship" seeping into the culture of many.
The watchdog also warned that teacher recruitment is a pressing issue, with thousands more teachers needed over the next decade to educate the almost one million more children due to be attending the nation's schools in this period.
The Government insisted there had been "incredible" improvements in secondary schools in recent years which should be recognised.
Head teachers reacted angrily to Sir Michael's conclusions, rejecting the assertion that standards in secondary education had stalled.
Sir Michael said that a year ago he concluded that England's schools were improving at a faster rate than ever.
Twelve months on, primary schools in England continue to forge ahead, with 82% rated as good or better, and around 700,000 more pupils attending a decent primary than in 2012.
But the rate of improvement in secondary education is grinding to a halt, and the overall proportion rated good or outstanding remains the same as last year at 71%.
The proportion of secondaries rated as inadequate has risen in the last 12 months, and there are over 50 more schools in special measures than there were a year ago, the report says.
There are around 170,000 pupils at secondaries rated inadequate - the lowest Ofsted rating available. This is up by 70,000 compared with two years ago.
Ofsted's report concludes that improvements in secondary schools can stall due to various factors, including poor and inconsistent leadership, too much low-level disruption, a failure to challenge clever students and a failure to narrow the gap for poor pupils.
Of the secondary schools inspected in 2013/14, there was a seven percentage point drop in the proportion where behaviour and safety were judged good or outstanding compared with inspections in 2012/13.
"This means that over 400,000 pupils attend a secondary school where behaviour is poor, preventing pupils from learning and teachers from teaching," the report says. "This is unacceptable."
It adds: "Inspectors found far too many instances of pupils gossiping, calling out without permission, using their mobiles, being slow to start work or follow instructions, or failing to bring the right books or equipment to class."
Sir Michael said he was increasingly concerned that the early years of secondary school are failing to build on the improvements made in primaries - particularly for the brightest youngsters.
Too many secondaries are not challenging their most able pupils, his report found. In 2013, nearly two-thirds of pupils in non-selective schools who were high achievers in English and maths in primary school did not get an A or A* in those subjects at GCSE. Nearly a quarter did not get a B grade.
"The nation should be worried about a growing divide between primary and secondary schools," Sir Michael said.
"In too many cases, pupils are leaving their primary schools with good literacy and numeracy skills, confident and eager to learn. But the culture they encounter at too many secondary schools often demotivates and discourages them."
The report reveals wide differences across the country in pupils' chances of attending a decent secondary school.
In around a third of local authority areas, less than 70% of state secondary schools are considered to be good or better, while in 13 areas, children have a less than 50% chance of being educated at a good or outstanding secondary.
A Department for Education spokesman said: "We now have more than one million more children being taught in good or outstanding schools since 2010. This has been accomplished by acting swiftly on underperformance, encouraging high quality schools to open and unleashing a wave of teaching talent across the country through our excellent teaching schools."
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: "ASCL rejects the assertion that improvement in secondary schools has stalled.
"Ofsted has failed to recognise that overall attainment by 16-year-olds is effectively capped by the current GCSE awarding process. As student attainment is the critical element in the Ofsted grading, it is no surprise that the proportion of schools graded good or better is relatively unchanged."