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Ofsted warns over ‘wasted potential’ of poor white pupils

Global news, Other


The Telegraph

By , Education Editor

Ofsted’s annual report is expected to highlight concerns over results achieved by white British pupils from poor homes, saying that too many are being written off at school.

White children from working-class families are being “written off” by a culture of low expectations in state schools, according to the education watchdog.

In a major report to be published this week, Ofsted will warn that a failure to raise standards among tens of thousands of poor British pupils represents an “unacceptable waste of human potential”, the Telegraph understands.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector, will say that improvements have been seen among deprived children from every ethnic group over the last six years but progress has been too slow in schools dominated by working-class white children.

Last year, just a quarter of poor white British boys gained five good GCSEs.

This compared with around four-in-10 deprived boys from black families, half of those from Asian backgrounds and almost two-thirds of poor Chinese teenagers.

The “poverty of expectation” in the white working-class community risks storing up major problems for the nation amid a rise in benefit claimants and crime rates, the watchdog says.

It is among a number of factors preventing English schools climbing major international league tables in the wake of a damning analysis of global education standards last week, it is claimed

The comments will be made as part of the Ofsted annual report – an analysis of more than 21,000 state schools and colleges in England.

Ofsted will also:

• Highlight concerns over the continuing problem of low-level disruption in and out of the classroom, saying too many teachers tolerate pupils who fail to pay attention, show disrespect, flout bans on mobile phones and hurl verbal abuse at adults;

• Say that some teachers are attempting to cram too much into classes in a bid to impress Ofsted inspectors, claiming that a “busy” lesson rarely provides pupils with a good educational experience;

• Criticise the continuing underperformance of some schools in middle-class areas that allow pupils to coast;

• Raise further fears over a “patchwork of provision” in the education system, with particular concerns over standards seen in East Anglia, which now has the worst-performing primary schools in the country;

• Call on the Government to provide more incentives – such as higher pay – to entice the best head teachers to work in less fashionable areas that often struggle to recruit top staff.

The conclusions follow the publication of a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development that showed standards among 15-year-olds in the UK had stagnated, with pupils now up to three years behind those in the Far East for maths.

Sir Michael, the former head teacher of a flagship academy in Hackney, East London, will insist that the watchdog is winning the “battle against mediocrity” in state schools following a controversial toughening up of the Ofsted inspection regime.

Changes made since his appointment two years ago include cutting the amount of notice given to schools before an inspection and rebranding satisfactory schools as “requires improvement”.

The move has had a “galvanising effect” in the classroom, according to Sir Michael, with more schools highly-rated now than at any other time in Ofsted’s 20-year history.

According to figures, almost eight-in-10 schools were ranked as good or outstanding at the end of the last academic year compared with seven-in-10 just 12 months earlier.

Only 19 per cent of schools require improvement and three per cent are inadequate, compared with 31 per cent that fell into the lowest categories under the old system.

But the Ofsted report – published on Wednesday – will warn that a failure to instil the right learning culture in many schools still holds back England’s education system.

White British schoolchildren from poorer backgrounds, in particular, are being “written off far too often”, it will claim.

Figures show that white British pupils account for almost two-thirds of those nationally who are eligible for free school meals – households earning less than £16,000 a year – yet results among these children have improved more slowly than those for other ethnic groups since 2007.

In a previous interview with the Telegraph, Sir Michael said working-class white pupils were suffering because old-fashioned values such as “self-help” and support for education had been eroded in many post-industrial cities or coastal towns with high levels of unemployment.

He said teachers from the best schools in these areas acted as “surrogate parents” – escorting pupils to bus stops, helping with homework, providing meals and giving them advice – in place of families who struggle to support their children”.

“We need to look back as well as forward,” he said.

“By that I mean, working-class communities in the past valued education, with that spirit of working men’s institutes and technical colleges and so on.

“Those communities thought long and hard about the future of their children and supported schools and were very much into self-help. We need to bring that back.”



A “patchwork of provision” across the English education system is preventing the country’s schoolchildren catching up their peers in the Far East, Ofsted will warn.

In a report, Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector, will say that the wide gulf in standards between the best and worst performing parts of the country is acting as a “brake on progress” nationally.

His annual report will reveal that too many schools in traditionally affluent areas are letting children down as teachers allow pupils to coast.

The watchdog will raise particular concerns over the East of England – a region containing Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk – where primary schools now perform worse than those in any other part of the country, despite containing many affluent towns and villages.

He will effectively name and shame the worst areas while heaping praise on those that have made the most progress in the last 12 months – the second year in a row Ofsted has carried out the analysis.

Coventry and Derby languished at the bottom of an Ofsted league table in 2012 but both have made “substantial progress”, it is claimed.

Sir Michael will also highlight improvements made in London, saying the city now has one of the largest concentrations of good and outstanding schools, despite being seen as an “educational basket case” in the 70s and 80s.

The report will say that major regional variation needs to be ironed out to drive England up international league tables.

This includes greater better incentives for top head teachers to work in “less fashionable” parts of the country with the greatest need for improvements.

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