Yesterday Ofsted’s Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw appeared before the Education Select Committee in the House of Commons and confirmed longstanding concerns about England’s educational accountability system.
Graham Stuart, the MP for Beverley and Holderness and the Chairman of the Education Select Committee, raised the issue of the perverse incentives that are created by the Government’s focus on five good A* to C GCSEs as the benchmark for judging the quality of secondary schools.
During the evidence session on the annual report of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Sir Michael said, “You are absolutely right in highlighting this issue of schools focusing on the A to C boundary and particularly the C to D boundary. I think it is important that heads focus on the progress of all children and inspectors focus on the progress of all children.”
In response to additional comments that head teachers are often driven by the five good GCSE benchmark Sir Michael replied, “We will be looking at the progress of all children from starting points to end points, but it is an issue also for Government.
“I was a head and therefore I was driven by the league tables. And the league tables have changed considerably. I was focusing before I left on the English Baccalaureate. If the Government, in its wisdom, said we will also introduce a league table which shows progression to university, and particularly to the Russell Group and Oxbridge, I would be driven by that. So there are all sorts of drivers, I think. Ofsted is a driver but so is Government.”
Following the Committee session Graham said, “I appreciate Sir Michael’s honesty and openness on these issues. We know that the Government’s laser-like focus on five good GCSEs can drive teachers to focus on the borderline students who are the most likely to be successful. This means that not nearly enough attention is given to both high and low performing pupils.
“I have spoken to Ministers about this issue several times and will continue to do so until they change the way we are approaching educational accountability and develop a more balanced scorecard that gives equal weight to the performance and progress of all pupils.”