Unsticking low-rated schools

Figure 1: Metrics for mainstream state schools in England, by Ofsted rating
Notes: All data are from the 2018-19 academic year except for 'Pupils at end of secondary school with prior low attainment at primary school' and 'Pupils eligible for free school meals relative to 10 closest schools', which are both from the 2017-18 academic year.
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.
  1. Schools can't control the areas in which they find themselves, but they can try to make their own intakes representative of the local population – academically, socioeconomically and ethnically. In some cases there might be good reasons for a school to be out of balance with its local community – grammar schools and certain types of faith school are arguably designed to segregate pupils – but leaders and inspectors (as well parents and politicians) should at least be asking themselves why, and whether anything can be done about it. Indeed, how about making this an explicit criterion on which Ofsted judges school effectiveness?
  2. Second, it seems clear that low-rated schools struggle even more than most to hire, motivate and retain staff. A contributing factor is surely the lack of established ways for teachers to earn lasting recognition for contributing to underperforming schools rather than joining ones that are already doing well. This is something that can really only be tackled at the national level: the Department for Education should provide incentives for the most able and experienced teachers to take some risks and go to the schools where need for them is greatest.

  1. While quoting this phrase, the Ofsted report correctly distances itself from its disparaging implications.
  2. This analysis covers only mainstream state schools in England. The small number of all-through schools are treated as secondary. Any schools that do not yet have an Ofsted rating have been omitted.
  3. For more detail on the methods used here, see our previous study 'Segregation in education'.
  4. The absolute levels of vacant and temporarily filled positions are low – around 1% – in part because the DfE School Workforce Census from which they come is conducted in November, when schools are usually fully staffed.

 

Teacher trends

Map 1: Average days per teacher lost to sickness (2019)
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash Insights.
Figure 1: Average days per teacher lost to sickness (2019)
Notes: School deprivation figures based on pupils' eligibility for free school meals, with bands defined by the DfE.
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.

It's worth adding that secondary schools with larger proportions of poor pupils tend to show greater recruiting activity, suggesting that they have more teacher vacancies and/or experience greater difficulty in filling them – see our recent analysis of school recruiting, especially Figure 5.

Figure 2: Average proportions of teachers aged over 50
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash Insights.
Map 2: Average proportion of teachers aged over 50 (2019)
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash Insights.

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