The Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills 2007/08 Good morning everyone. I'm very pleased to welcome you to the launch of my Annual Report. I'm also pleased to welcome Zenna Atkins, the Chairman of Ofsted. Ofsted's in a slightly different position to most organisations and the Chairman is responsible for the Ofsted Departmental Report, but this report is very much the Chief Inspectors Report. I think today is a really important day for Ofsted, because it is the first time we're able to report to you a full year's worth of inspection from across our wide range of responsibilities; not just schools and colleges, but child care, social care, adult learning and the skills sector. So the report draws again on a formidable range of evidence: for example the inspection of over 31,000 day care settings and childminders; just under 8,000 schools; 150 colleges; 44 joint area reviews of children's services in local authorities and 480 inspections of adult learning providers; and around about 5,000 inspections of children's homes. As those of you that came earlier will have seen, the report is in three sections; the first is my commentary, the second is our over view of quality and standards and the third is a section where we tackle three major themes this year. The first of these themes looks at how excellent provision can be achieved and sustained, especially by those serving young people and their families in our most deprived communities. There have been real improvements but provision is still not as good as it should be for those facing poverty and disadvantage. We know that poor people get poor services and that disadvantage breeds disadvantage. But this section also provides examples of how schools and services in disadvantaged areas have improved and last year I told you we would do that and the report identifies common factors of what we described as sustained excellence. Services have to be excellent if they are to break the mould so that our most disadvantaged children and young people can take the opportunities or can make the opportunities that come much more easily to those more fortunate. This resonates with our recurring theme that "satisfactory" is not good enough, especially for those facing poverty and disadvantage. But this isn't a message of despair. The best we think can be a beacon for the rest. To support more schools for instance in moving in this direction, we're just about to publish a report of 12 secondary schools that consistently, over a number of years, achieve excellence against the odds. Now our second theme is especially important, given the recent tragic events in Haringey and Manchester. It shines a light on safe-guarding and focuses on how children and young people are protected from abuse, from neglect, and highlights the issues raised in the recent joint report with other inspectorates. Although there have been improvements in the past few years, as we have seen from the appalling news of recent weeks there is absolutely no room for complacency; everyone, and I mean everyone involved in child protection in any way must take stock of the role they play, and consider how, be it as front line staff, policy makers, or indeed regulators and inspectors, they can and we can improve the system. This section of the report highlights that despite much progress, we are still not learning enough, or fast enough, from serious case reviews which happen when a child has died or been harmed through neglect or abuse. Thirdly, we look at how effectively skills - skills for working lives - are taught in classrooms and the workplace. In the current economic climate it has never been more important for young people - and indeed adults - to receive the support and guidance they need to support their employability. So what else stood out for me in this years report? There are many aspects of our education, care and skills provision which are undoubtedly better than in the past and I'll just offer you a few of those. - A higher proportion of good or outstanding childcare and early education than ever before. - Of the schools we inspected this year, almost two thirds were good or outstanding, and that proportion has risen steadily since 2005 and in 2005 we raised the bar for inspections and that is a remarkable testimony to the head teachers, teachers and many others who work with our children and young people to make this happen. - A similar proportion of social care provision - children's homes, for example - is also good or outstanding though that sector is more volatile and I am nervous about those figures. - The trend of improvement in colleges of further education continues, with an increased proportion rated as good or outstanding. So a set of things there that point to the positive. But such undoubted improvements do not mean that all is well. If education in England is going to compare favourably with the best of the world, standards needs to improve further. One in five pupils still, and I said this to you last year, still gets to the end of primary school without reaching the expected level in English and Maths. More than half of our 16-year-olds do not achieve five good GCSEs including Maths and English. There are also major challenges ahead, especially how to improve the services for, and the performance of, our most disadvantaged children and young people. Put simply, our poorest children tend to do worst at school and are more likely to receive services that are inadequate. Factors of gender have an impact, ethnicity has an impact. So for example, the attainment of white British boys from poor homes remains particularly low, blighting their opportunities to go to University, seen by many as the real key to social mobility. Now before I take your questions, I just want to stress three other important findings from the report. First, we have a particular responsibility as a society to ensure that services for those children, young people and families whose circumstances make them potentially vulnerable - particularly children in care or in custody - are as good as possible. Yet there are still children's homes which we judge to be inadequate in keeping their children safe; there may not be many, but that there are any at all, I think, is shocking. Second, much has been written about the priority afforded the teaching of English and Maths in schools and this has to continue to be a high priority. But more must be done too, to support those who leave school without sufficient skills in literacy and numeracy - skills central to securing employment, sustaining employment and indeed leading what I would describe as a normal life. Now this is sensitive territory and we find, our evidence finds that employers are often reluctant to broach concerns about basic skills with their employees - we want to see this change. It's absolutely never too late to learn. Third, I'm concerned about those institutions and providers where there is no improvement and, in some instances, a deterioration. The quality of children's homes, for example as I said, can be volatile. Changes to staffing, to management can have a really negative effect very quickly and undo much good work. For our part, and we have been amending our approach to inspection to take account of this, we need to be more astute in picking up local concerns, such as those from children and learners, and indeed, from parents and carers. We need to head the warning signs: lengthy periods of interim or constantly changing senior staff, for example. Inspection needs to be smarter at intervening and flagging concerns before they escalate. That's why earlier this year we published changes to school inspection - we are also making improvements across our other areas of responsibilities, some proposals are currently out for consultation, others are on the way. I am determined that we will focus our inspections where they have the most impact in terms of raising standards and improving peoples lives. So while good and outstanding providers should be subject in many ways to a lighter touch inspection, we will focus on schools for instance that aren't making the progress they should, as well as those that are inadequate because we know that inspection is a lever for improvement. So to conclude, this year's report leaves me encouraged that so much is going in the right direction for many children, young people and adult learners. But frustrated too that there is still too much that is patently inadequate, too many worrying pockets of poor performance, and too many settings and institutions where the rate of improvement, the pace of improvement is unacceptably slow. As the report says, provision that succeeds against the odds must not be the remarkable exception, it must be the entitlement for all. Thank you very much indeed.
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