Ofsted U-turn leaves schools on the hop

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SPALDING Grammar and High schools could be among the quarter of ‘outstanding’ English schools facing re-examination as Ofsted moves its goalposts on educational standards.

A new framework for Ofsted inspections came in last month which ended regular, full-scale inspections for ‘outstanding’ schools.

But the Ofsted boss, chief inspector for schools Sir Michael Wilshaw, threw eveything back into the melting pot last week when he said: “I don’t see how you achieve outstanding status unless the quality of teaching is outstanding.”

Spalding Grammar School gained ‘outstanding’ status in its Ofsted inspection in December, but the quality of teaching was marked ‘good’.

Spalding High School could also get caught up in fresh inspections although it too is currently rated ‘outstanding’.

In the High School’s last full Ofsted inspection in 2009, almost all teaching was rated ‘outstanding’ – but the sixth form was away doing exams and, bizarrely, teaching for those students was marked ‘good’ although no lessons were observed by inspectors.

An Ofsted subject survey at the school last February for English described achievement as ‘outstanding’ but the quality of teaching ‘good’.

Grammar school headteacher Nigel Ryan was not available for comment, but High School headmaster Tim Clark believes his school is still only likely to have “health checks” rather than full inspections.

Mr Clark remains baffled about the ‘good’ score for the sixth form when lessons were not observed.

He said: “In 20 odd categories we got ‘outstanding’ and in one we got a ‘good’ – why they didn’t just leave it blank we will never know. We find it a rather odd scenario.”

Other big changes on the cards are so-called “no notice” inspections and the scrapping of the ‘satisfactory’ label, a category describing many South Holland schools, and its replacement with ‘requires improvement’.

Mr Clark said schools now get two days’ notice before inspectors come calling and there is no way they can have all the paperwork to hand if they just walk in unannounced.

But Long Sutton’s Peele Community College headteacher Ian Charles said: “I have always been in favour of ‘no notice’. I think to turn up and see a school in action is the only way to do it. People can put on a show.”

His school has just been rated ‘satisfactory’ in an Ofsted inspection in January and says the new category ‘requires improvement’ will not adequately reflect the many improvements made over the last three years.

Spalding headteacher Heather Beeken, of St Paul’s Community Primary School, said her school is rated ‘satisfactory’ and the new ‘requires improvement’ label will be “a very poor morale boost for parents and staff”.