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Solving the UK’s ‘stuck’ school dilemma – report

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A new report from Ofsted outlines the UK stuck school dilemma. Source: Edvin Johansson/ Unsplash

Overseeing the quality of education standards in UK schools, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (OFSTED) has the power to tip a school’s scale from satisfactory to excellent.

If a school in the UK hasn’t achieved a rating of good or better within the period of four full inspections, Ofsted will consider them as “stuck” schools. A school can become “unstuck” if after being graded less than good in four inspections, it is graded good in two following inspections.

UK school

How can Ofsted lift stuck schools in the UK out of a rut? Source: Sam Bayle/ Unsplash

In their new report “Fight or flight? How ‘stuck’ schools are overcoming isolation,” Ofsted found that there are currently 415 stuck and 65 recently unstuck schools as of August 2019, and that stuck schools represent two percent of all state-funded schools in England.

And despite trying to intervene and offer support, they have yet to see an uplifting change to these stuck schools.

What type of schools are stuck?

According to the report, it’s a mixture of school levels:

  • 46 percent (189) are primary schools (compared with 72 percent nationally)
  • 9 percent (37) are junior schools (compared with 5 percent nationally)
  • 44 percent (181) are secondary schools (compared with 15 percent nationally)

Why are these schools stuck?

Ofsted’s research visits to 20 stuck and unstuck schools revealed that the top three reasons cited were poor parental motivation, geographical isolation and unstable pupil populations. Students at stuck schools face “incredibly challenging social circumstances,” as described by Ofsted.

On the subject of poor parental motivation, many schools reported low levels of literacy and employment among parents.

“In some schools, children are reportedly sent to school hungry and allowed to stay up late on social media or to access inappropriate material on the internet,” the report said.

For the geographical isolation setback, schools felt that their “communities were not sufficiently economically vibrant to attract good teachers, particularly due to lower pay”.

“They believed that the wider cultural, social and economic opportunities available within bigger towns and cities were draining them of talent.”

Whereas, the issue of unstable pupil populations related to schools reporting that the number of pupils on roll fell as they were put into special measures but rose when they reached required improvement.

“This has a destabilising effect on funding, particularly for small schools. A sharp reduction significantly reduces funding and a sharp rise increases it – but that money is only available the following year, due to the lagged funding system.”

What will happen to these stuck schools?

The future of the 415 stuck schools remains uncertain, but Ofsted believes that there is still hope.

“It is possible to improve, even in the most challenging of circumstances,” it said.

It referred to the work of unstuck schools that have seen success. The leaders of these schools focus on implementing an effective behaviour policy, ensuring high standards of teaching and getting the right support from their multi-academy trusts.

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