Ofsted’s chief inspector has warned teaching has to improve if Midland schools want to earn an “outstanding” rating in future.
Sir Michael Wilshaw said schools can no longer be given a top rating if the quality of teaching fails to reach high standards set by the Government inspectorate.
He also said tough new measures will see inspectors bypassing “peripheral and irrelevant documentation” in favour of heading straight into the classroom.
Sir Michael’s comments came during a visit to Park View Business and Enterprise School in Birmingham, which became the first school in the country rated “outstanding” after tough new inspection measures were introduced in January.
The Alum Rock school was rated outstanding across the board, which Sir Michael put down to the “tough but inspirational” leadership of head teacher Lindsey Clark.
Sir Michael said: “The most important thing about a school is the quality of teaching. Children experience five or six hours of teaching every day, so it is the most important thing. That’s why the new framework for inspections coming in focuses and emphasises the importance of this.
“Inspectors turn up and go straight to lessons, they don’t want to see piles of paperwork or peripheral and irrelevant documentation.
“They want to see what is happening in the classroom, if the children are engaged, if they are being taught well, are their books being marked.
“If we are saying that is the most important thing, then how can we say a school is outstanding if it does not have outstanding teaching?
“It’s a common sense approach to outstanding.”
Sir Michael requested a tour of Park View School ahead of a keynote speech at an Association of School and College Leaders’ conference in Birmingham.
Almost all the students are from minority ethnic groups and speak English as an additional language, with the number of pupils on free school meals well above the national average.
But despite the challenges, an impressive 72 per cent of students achieved five or more A* to C grades, including maths and English, in last year’s GCSEs.
This is against a national average of 58 per cent.
But Parkview hasn’t always been the byword for success. During Sir Michael’s tour, one student revealed how the school had been given the ironic nickname Parkview Grammar thanks to poor results.
When chair of governors Tahir Alam joined Parkview in 1995, it was one of the worst-performing schools in the country. “When I joined the percentage was below 10 per cent,” said Mr Alam, who is also a former pupil.
“It’s a completely different place now.
Recent figures published by the Government show pupils who have English as their first language are now in the minority in more than one in four Birmingham schools.
Figures from the Department of Education showed a majority of students at 117 of the city’s 430 schools listed a different language as their mother tongue.
However, Sir Michael said that Parkview and St Alban’s Academy in Highgate, where many students speak English as a second language, showed language was “no barrier to learning”.
He said: “As long as you intervene, have language classes and lots of intensive support classes going on, then you can crack that one.
“It is attitude towards education that is important. A lot of these children are born here, they are bilingual, so we should not see it as a barrier to success.
“As chief inspector, I say that it is not a an excuse for not achieving. Attitudes towards learning are more problematic.”
Ofsted’s annual report, which was published last November, showed that of a total of 108 Birmingham and Solihull schools which received Ofsted visits between 2010-11, 11 were given the top rating of outstanding and 10 were deemed inadequate – the lowest mark.
The “satisfactory” rating is set to be scrapped as part of Sir Michael’s mission to tackle “coasting schools”.
He said: “‘Satisfactory’ isn’t good enough. Every parent wants to send their children to a good school, every child deserves to go to a good school, not a satisfactory one.
“For a long time now, people have seen satisfactory as not being particularly good, and we need to be straight with parents.
“Ofsted is here to say we need good schools in our country, not satisfactory or below.
“We have set some tough targets, such as a school can only remain in a requirement to improve category for three years before they fail.
“Hopefully, this will focus people’s minds, particularly heads and governors’ minds, on what needs to be done.”