City schools ‘must do better’ to boost rating

Headteacher David Bowes celebrates at Tapton School who have had an excellent OFSTED report.
Headteacher David Bowes celebrates at Tapton School who have had an excellent OFSTED report.

Thousands of Sheffield school pupils are still being taught in schools which are failing or require improvement, according to Ofsted – which says the city ‘must do better’ to improve its place in the rankings.

In secondaries the figure is 43 per cent, one per cent worse than last year.

Ofsted has held up one of Sheffield’s success stories, Tapton in Crosspool, as a case study for excellence.

Its most recent inspection found it was outstanding in all areas, with most students making excellent progress.

David Bowes, chief executive of Tapton Academy Trust, which also includes Chaucer and Forge Valley schools, said changes to the inspection framework made meeting the criteria more difficult.

Nine out of Sheffield’s 25 state secondaries are requiring improvement, while a further three are rated inadequate.

The picture is almost identical to last year, with the city lagging behind both regional and national averages.

Schools ‘need level playing field’

A ‘more level playing field’ is needed to help local schools improve their place in Ofsted’s rankings, a leading Sheffield educationalist has said – after the city scored poorly in a national table.

David Bowes, chief executive of Tapton Academy Trust, which also includes Chaucer and Forge Valley schools, said no-one in education wanted pupils being taught in schools that were anything less than good.

“But it is difficult when Ofsted constantly changes its inspection framework so it relies on national statistics compiled by exam boards who themselves have changed the goalposts quite dramatically,” he said.

Ofsted toughened up its regime in 2012 by scrapping its third inspection category, previously called ‘satisfactory’.

Those schools are now labelled as ‘requiring improvement’.

The change meant that many schools came under serious scrutiny for the first time, with inspectors told to crack down on those felt to be ‘coasting’.

“When those goal posts are changed with very little notice it just doesn’t seem very fair - as for secondary schools GCSE results form the backbone of their judgements.

“The excellence that is in Tapton’s DNA is being shared with Chaucer and Forge Valley and they will be outstanding.

“But we want to see a level playing field and we want the system to be fair, which is a quite reasonable request,” he added.

Ofsted’s regional director Nick Hudson said the situation in Sheffield had improved to a degree as more pupils were now being taught in either good or outstanding schools.

“But we do note that schools are not improving fast enough – and in Sheffield as elsewhere there are significant differences between the primary and secondary sectors,” he said.

“We are still very concerned about schools found to be requiring improvement and we are monitoring their progress closely to see that they are doing the right things.”

Mr Hudson said future inspections would allow for the volatility in GCSE results this year caused by changes to the system.

“We will look closely at the pace of improvement made by pupils since joining schools looking at the broader context as there has been a depression in results nationally,” he added.