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School performance measures to be overhauled

Do you think the performance measures are confusing?
Do you think the performance measures are confusing?

Measures used to judge whether a school is up to scratch are set to be overhauled amid concerns that the current system is "confusing".

Ministers have announced proposals to scrap the system of two standards to hold schools in England to account for their performance and replace them with a new single measure.

He will also insist schools will only be forced to become academies in the future if they are declared inadequate by Ofsted.

Announcing the plans at the National Association of Head Teachers' (NAHT) annual conference in Liverpool today, Education Secretary Damian Hinds will say he wants to make the accountability system clearer.

He is also expected to make it clear to school leaders that the only body that inspects schools is Ofsted.

Under the current system, there is a floor standard, based on progress and SATs or GCSE results, and schools are consider under-performing if they fall beneath this benchmark.

The latest government figures show that 511 primaries and 365 secondaries are below the floor standard.

There is also a "coasting schools" measure, which looks at results over three years.

In both cases - if a school is considered coasting, or under-performing - they are typically referred to their regional schools commissioner, who help decided what support, or funding they may need to boost standards.

Council-run schools can become academies, while those who already have academy status can be handed to a new sponsor.

Under the new proposals, which will be consulted on, a new single measure will be drawn up to hold schools to account and trigger support if they fall below a certain level, the Department for Education said.

Mr Hinds is expected to say: "We must have a system that does more than just deal with failure... But we will do so in the right way, and there will be a single, transparent data trigger for schools to be offered support - which we will consult on.

"I intend this to replace the current confusing system of having both below the floor and coasting standards for performance."

The minister is also expected to clarify who is responsible for inspecting schools and judging their performance, amid confusion over the role of others, such as regional schools commissioners, saying that "the only people who should go to schools for inspections are Ofsted".

Regional schools commissioners do not inspect individual schools, but provide support to those who need it and work with academy sponsors and local authorities.

Mr Hinds is expected to tell the conference: "Accountability is vital. Children only get one shot at an education and we owe them the best... where they are being let down we need to take action quickly - so no one ends up left behind.

"But what I've found from speaking to many of you these last few months is that there is also real confusion within the sector... I believe school leaders need complete clarity on how the accountability system will operate.

"I'm clear that Ofsted is the body that can provide an independent, rounded judgment of a school's performance.

"This means we will not be forcibly turning schools into academies unless Ofsted has judged it to be Inadequate.

"I believe strongly that becoming an academy can bring enormous benefits to schools. Hundreds of schools every year voluntarily choose to become academies and I want this to be a positive choice for more and more schools as we move forwards."

Ofsted's Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman said: "Confusion about different roles and responsibilities has been a distraction for schools and has increased teacher workload unnecessarily.

"Today's announcement brings much needed clarity and simplicity to the system. It sends a very clear message that Ofsted is the only body that can make an informed and independent judgement about a school's performance."

NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman, said: "It's absolutely right that there should only be one agency with the remit to inspect schools. Clarity about the standards that are expected is just what we've been calling for.

"Removing the coasting and floor standards will do much to address the confusion felt by many school leaders. It will be important that the new support standard is set at the right level and helps direct rapid, high-quality, funded support to the schools that need it most."