THE education watchdog has warned North East teachers they will no longer be allowed to use deprivation surrounding their schools as an excuse for failing children.
Ofsted made the warning as chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw hit out at a “completely unacceptable” system in which standards varied widely from one local authority to another.
An Ofsted annual report said more needed to be done to force up standards.
In some parts of the North East, around a third of pupils go to schools which fail to reach “good” or “outstanding” ratings in Ofsted inspections.
Bad reports and lower-than-average GCSE results have often been defended by schools who say league tables do not take account of a pupil’s background.
But today Ofsted told The Journal a new inspection regime would be making it clear that this is not acceptable.
In his report, Sir Michael said he was also concerned about wider failings in the system, singling out the North East for having fewer than 60% of pupils achieving acceptable standards in English. As part of the crackdown on under performing schools, Ofsted will also appoint a troubleshooting Northern director, Nick Hudson, to ensure councils and head teachers push up standards.
The move was announced amid growing concern of a postcode lottery in education standards, with some children in the North East 20% more likely to go to a good or outstanding school than in other parts.
As part of that process, Ofsted is naming and shaming authorities in league tables for the first time showing where families can expect their children to get the best and worst standards of education.
It means parents can rank areas by their overall quality of teaching, rather than simply looking at exam results from individual schools.
It follows last month’s Ofsted warning to North East teachers at a conference in Newcastle that inspectors will start to consider what changes should be made to wages for teachers at failing schools.
Last night, Ofsted’s national education director Sue Gregory said the performance payments in place for teachers whose classrooms have seen standards fall would be discussed with head teachers, but said overall pay levels remained outside the inspector’s control.
She added: “Our new regional director in the North East will be asking why those schools which are not performing well enough are in the situation they are, and focus on those that are not good enough.
“But we will not accept the idea that being from a deprived area is an excuse.
“There are already schools which have a large number of pupils from a disadvantaged background that receive outstanding reports and it is just not an excuse.
“No parent wants their child to go to a bad school no matter what the social economic factors are, and no teacher wants to teach in bad schools.
“We know they all want better than this and we will be working with them to change this and end this excuse.
“Yes, there are always going to be challenges, some significant challenges, but we cannot just sit back and accept that.”
Schools North East director Beccy Earnshaw, who speaks on behalf of head teachers, said the Ofsted report was a useful tool.
She added: “When you look at this report, there are a lot of positives here, and there is an acknowledgement that the situation is improving.
“But we in education are used to a fair amount of negativity recently. There are issues in this report that are not great, but what it also does is let us know where we need to look at to make sure everyone has access to the best standard of education.”
The North East NUT suggested the new Oftsed approach was part of a plan by Education Secretary Michael Gove to close down schools in order to open up more academies.
A spokesman said: “Naming and shaming local authorities would certainly suit Michael Gove’s agenda of forcing all local authorities into the position of converting schools to academies.”
Washington and Sunderland West Labour MP Sharon Hodgson said: “Schools only have contact with children and young people for a minority of their life, and it is obvious that factors linked to deprivation such as malnutrition, poor health and poor housing conditions will affect a child’s ability to concentrate and get the most out of their education.
“Looking at the performance of schools in a social vacuum is therefore unhelpful in seeing how much they do actually improve the lives of their pupils.
“If we’re going to improve education in the North East, we need more and better teachers, and for schools to work together to raise standards in all areas, especially those still blighted by deprivation.”
A Department for Education spokesman said: “We will root out under-performance wherever we find it and drive up standards so that every pupil is able to reach their full potential.”
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