As Chief Inspector, the production of the Annual Report offers me a unique opportunity to reflect on what is working well for children and learners and to shine a light on what needs to be improved. That means presenting an overview of quality: strengths, weaknesses, success stories, concerns. I hope this report does just that. It does not pull punches where there are concerns; but, equally, it shows where things are improving and going well for children, young people and adult learners. Ofsted is much more than a schools inspectorate these days, and this report reflects outstanding quality and strong improvement across all the sectors we regulate and inspect.
Changes in a single year are rarely dramatic; nor would we expect them to be, despite our understandable impatience with the pace of change. This is why what matters most is sustained improvement in both outcomes and capacity. As I look back over the annual reports of my predecessors, one thing is clear: for most children and learners, things are getting better, and this Annual Report illustrates the point.
- There is a higher proportion of good or outstanding childcare and early education than ever before.
- Of the maintained schools inspected this year, almost two thirds are good or outstanding. The proportion of good or outstanding schools has risen by five percentage points since 2005/06. The quality of nursery education is particularly high.
- In the children’s social care sector, of the services inspected this year, two thirds are good or outstanding.
- Improvement continues in secure accommodation for children and young people; behaviour is better and there is now a proper focus on basic skills.
- The trend of improvement in colleges of further education continues, with an increased proportion good or outstanding.
- Many providers in the adult learning sector are successfully meeting the needs of learners who have found it difficult to engage in learning at or beyond school, or to move into sustained employment.
- Initial teacher education programmes are designed well and trainees are highly motivated and enthusiastic.
But such undoubted improvements do not mean that all is well; if education in England is going to compare favourably with the best in the world, standards need to improve further. There has been a considerable reduction in the proportion of 11-year-olds who transfer from primary to secondary education without reaching the expected level in English and mathematics; even so, the proportion today is still one in five. A decade ago, two thirds of secondary age pupils left compulsory education without grades A* to C in five subjects at GCSE including English and mathematics. Today the figure is still more than half.
There are, then, still major challenges ahead and worrying pockets of poor performance. This is particularly true of services for disadvantaged children. Across England, the opportunities available to these children fall well short of those available to others. As I said last year, the relationship between poverty and outcomes for young people is stark. The poor outcomes for young people living in the most disadvantaged areas are seen at every stage of the education and care sectors. To give just one example, Ofsted’s recent report on childcare, Leading to excellence, highlights not only the variation in the quality of provision across the country but that children living in deprived areas have access to fewer good childcare settings.
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