Primary Schools doing better than the Secondaries, says HMCI Wilshaw

3 Jan

Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools (HMCI), published his third annual report on 10 December 2014.  The report was based on information derived from the inspections of over 7,000 schools, colleges and providers for further education and skills during the academic year 2013/14.   His key findings were as follows.

(a)        Standards in the primary sector continued to rise, but progress in secondary schools stalled. Altogether, 82% of primary schools were judged to be good or better.  This meant that nearly 700,000 more pupils were now in good or outstanding primary schools than was the case in January 2012, when Sir Michael first took up his current position.    However, only 71% of secondary schools (a similar figure to that of 12 months previously) were good or better.

The 11% gap between the primary and secondary schools of good or outstanding schools has grown from 3% in January 2012.  Over 170,000 pupils were now in secondary schools rated inadequate, 70,000 more than in 2012.  In fact, there were 50 more secondary schools in special measures in 2013/14 as compared to the previous academic year, which Sir Michael found worrying.

When delving deeper into the reasons why primary schools were ahead of secondaries he came up with the following factors.

  • The quality of leadership in primary schools had improved.
  • Governing bodies provided headteachers with challenge as well as support.
  • Teaching was focused on getting the basics right, including phonics.
  • Good attendance and behaviour were the norm.
  • More of the brightest pupils were reaching their potential by the age of 11.
  • The gap between those on free school meals and other pupils had narrowed.

The factors causing the secondary schools to lag behind were as follows.

  • Teaching at Key Stage 3 (11 to 14) was failing to build on prior learning
  • There was poor and inconsistent leadership.
  • Middle management was ineffective.
  • There was too much low-level disruption.
  • The schools were not challenging the most able.
  • The schools were failing to narrow the gap between disadvantaged pupils and the rest.
  • The schools provided poor careers advice.
  • The schools suffered from weak governance and oversight.

(b)        In two thirds of local authority (LA) areas, pupils had a higher chance of attending a good or outstanding primary school than secondary school.  (There are 13 local authority areas in England where children have a less than 50% chance of attending a good or outstanding secondary school.)

(c)        There were big regional differences in the performances of schools.   Altogether, 98% of Camden’s primary schools were good if not better.  In the Medway, it was a mere 53%.   In Haringey, 100% of secondary schools were good or outstanding.  On the other hand, only 17% of secondaries in the Isle of Wight were.

(d)        In 2013, the lowest achievements were of white pupils on free school meals. Sir Michael found this particularly worrying.  However, there were again stark regional differences.  Seven of the best 10 (of 150 local authorities in the country) with white pupils on FSM attaining 5 or more A* to C grades in their GCSEs were in London, with Westminster at the top.   Hackney was the only London authority that featured in the bottom ten. Bracknell Forest came last in this league table.   (See figure below).

Data of the proportions of White British FSM pupils in 2013 attaining 5 or more A* to C GCSEs in the best and worst local authority areas

Top 10 Bottom 10
Westminster 58.3% North Lincolnshire 29.4%
Lambeth 54.2% Leicester 27.1%
Haringey 51.9% Southend-on-Sea 28.7%
Bromley 49.8% Barnsley 28.6%
Windsor and Maidenhead 49.1% Hackney 28.3%
Southwark 48.6% Isle of Wight 28.0%
Brent 48.5% Portsmouth 27.6%
Kingston-upon-Thames 47.7% West Berkshire 27.2%
Kensington and Chelsea 47.6% Northumberland 26.9%
Halton 47.4% Bracknell Forest 22.9%

(c)        Although there were many good or outstanding secondary schools, HMCI wrote, more needed to be done to narrow the gap in achievement between disadvantaged pupils and their peers. The potential of the most able pupils was not always being realised, he added.

(d)        Teaching in Further Education (FE) had improved.   However, Sir Michael expressed concern that learners were not being prepared well enough for work or further study.   He averred that FE practitioners were not always equipping learners with the skills they needed to succeed in work.

(e)        While he noted that the quality of new entrants to the teaching profession and the initial training they underwent was good if not better, he highlighted concerns about the overall supply of new teachers as well as their distribution across the country.

Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme on the day he published his report, Sir Michael deemed the lack of good leadership as being the key issue, when a school – whatever the type – academy, free school or local authority controlled – does not do as well as it should.  He added that two other negative aspects of the country’s education system were the transition arrangements for young people from the primary to the secondary stage of education and low-level disruption in the classrooms.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: