Four out of five schools lose “Outstanding” status
For a large part of the last decade, schools rated “outstanding” have been excluded from routine Ofsted inspections. But in 2019, the government lifted this exemption and inspectors began visiting outstanding schools at the beginning of the 2021/22 academic year, prioritising those that had gone the longest without inspection.
371 schools were visited in total, with an average of thirteen years since their last inspection. Data shows that 83 percent of these schools lost their outstanding status. Around two thirds were rated “good,” whilst 21 percent were downgraded to “requires improvement” or “inadequate.” The inspectorate clarified that these results may not be typical of all exempted schools, but the results were concerning nevertheless, as ‘a higher proportion now require improvement or are inadequate than is the case for all schools nationally, especially for the primary schools.’
Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, criticised the policy for depriving parents of up-to-date information regarding the quality of their child’s school. She explained that the exemption was originally put in place with the hope that ‘high standards, once achieved, would never drop, and freedom of inspection might drive them even higher. These outcomes show that removing a school from scrutiny does not make it better.’
However, some voices within the sector have challenged Ofsted’s framing of the data, suggesting that the changing outcomes are a consequence of ‘shifting the goalposts,’ rather than declining standards. Steve Rollet, deputy CEO of the Confederation of School Trusts (CST), explains that in previous years, schools did not have to meet every single grade criteria in order to achieve an outstanding rating. But thresholds have now changed under the Education Inspection Framework, in what Rollet describes as ‘a systematic choice to drive down the proportion of outstanding schools.’ He encourages boards and parents to reflect on the policy context, rather than assume educational standards have fallen at their school.
Over three quarters of teaching assistants face violence at work
In a new survey of 1,000 teaching assistants, 77 percent reported that they experienced violence at work. Research by the GMB union found that members had received a shocking range of injuries, including broken bones and teeth, black eyes, bites that break the skin, torn ligaments and concussions. Almost 70 percent of respondents felt that violence was expected to be tolerated as part of the job; a third said they suffered attacks from pupils on a weekly basis.
More than half of teaching assistants felt that assaults were not taken seriously by the senior leadership at their school. Almost two thirds said that risk assessments and behaviour plans were not updated after incidents took place. Lisa Bangs, schools lead for GMB London Schools, said ‘headteachers are failing in their legal duty of care by allowing abuse and violence against their staff and this wouldn’t happen in any other workplace.’
GMB surveyed teaching assistants based in mainstream schools across the Home Counties, London and the East of England. The union said there was scope for the survey to be extended nationally, however no plans have been confirmed.
The impact of the pandemic on mental health and wellbeing
Researchers argue that mental health support should play a key role in education recovery plans after findings from the Covid Social Mobility & Opportunities (COSMO) study reveal almost half of young people are experiencing mental health problems.
Record numbers of children and young people were referred to mental health services in 2021, increasing by 96 percent since 2019. In a survey of 13,000 pupils, researchers explored the rise in psychological distress amongst young people, with significant variances between gender, ethnicity and carer status.
For example, 11 percent of boys reported having self-harmed over the past year, compared to 23 percent of girls and 61 percent of individuals who identified as ‘non-binary or in another way.’ White students and those of mixed ethnicity were more than twice as likely to have self-harmed than pupils of other ethnicities. Additionally, a quarter of children with caring responsibilities had self-harmed, compared to 17 percent of non-carers.
Although wellbeing amongst young people has been in decline for years, researchers say the pandemic ‘is likely to have exacerbated the situation.’ Children who suffered directly from either having Covid or dealing with the social isolation of shielding were more likely to report high psychological distress. Furthermore, 51 percent of pupils reported that they were less motivated to study and learn as a consequence of the pandemic. Those with poor mental health felt that their progress in Year 11 had suffered; they had fallen behind their classmates; and more than 70 percent had changed plans for their future education and career.
Only half of pupils in state schools were satisfied with the mental health support they received in school, compared to 77% of pupils in independent schools. To ensure all children and young people have access to high-quality services, researchers urge the government to provide ring-fenced funding for mental health support in all schools. They recommend that funds go towards developing a whole-school approach to mental health, providing students with access to an independent counsellor, and establishing Mental Health Support teams in every school.
Reflecting on the headlines this week, we are reminded that schools should be a safe and supportive environment for all.
At One Education, we believe that a strong sense of community and belonging is essential to pupil welfare and achievement. With our OneWellbeing Service, we can help you to develop a whole-school approach to mental health and wellbeing, using a full range of universal and specialist targeted provision.
Bringing together a team of Educational Psychologists, SEND Practitioners, Speech and Language Therapists, Safeguarding Professionals, HR Specialists and more, we can help you support wellbeing at every level of your school.
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