Ofsted boss condemns state schools for letting high-flyers flounder

By Phoebe Cooke

Too many intelligent pupils are being allowed to get away with mediocre exam results, Ofsted has warned.

Chief inspector of schools Sir Michael Wilshaw spoke out after a report from the schools watchdog showed how two-thirds of the country's brightest young sparks are not achieving top GCSE results.

The study, which surveyed 2,000 children from non-selective state schools across the UK and included 1,000 hours of lesson observation, showed bright pupils were routinely under-challenged at school and therefore not fulfilling their natural potential.

Wilshaw said he was "passionate" about the prospects of state school-educated children getting the same chances as their independently-schooled contemporaries.

"We're in a situation in this country where many more youngsters are going from the independent sector and grammar schools to the top universities than those in the comprehensive schools – double the number," he said.

"We've got to do something about that. I'm passionate about comprehensive, non-selective schools in the state sector doing as well as the selective system."

In the report, whose results Wilshaw also dubbed as "shocking" and "an issue of national concern", Ofsted warned that more than 65,000 of England's most able schoolchildren ware falling far short of their potential in state schools.

The report has not passed without criticism from teaching unions, with Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teachers’ union, commenting that the findings seemed to be "based on the flimsiest of research evidence".

“Yet again the teaching profession and parents will be deeply dismayed to see another ideological report condemning our education system," she said.

Brian Lightman of the Assocation of School and College Leaders was also dissatisfied with Ofsted's reaction, accusing them of coming out with "sound-bites" and a reactionary stance.

He commented: "We always accept that it's not good enough, but we don't accept that our schools are failing, and that it's a shocking failure, and all that sort of very emotive language."

Lightman suggested Ofsted should offer a more proactive approach to the obvious flaws in the school system, adding: "Instead of coming out with sound-bites, what we need them to be doing is to work with schools and work with parents, work with teachers, and help us to actually achieve better things."

Following the result's findings, Ofsted proposed that schools and academies should devote more time and energy on cultivating their most talented pupils.

One proposal was that every pupil should be given a new form of report card, telling parents how their children are performing compared to their contemporaries nationally.

The Ofsted report comes just days after the government announced a major overhaul of GCSEs, with prime minister David Cameron warning that reforms were necessary in an education establishment "increasingly comfortable with failure".