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Schools failing ‘invisible minority’ – Ofsted

A new national service of teachers should be set up and sent into underperforming schools, the chief inspector of schools in England has proposed.

The head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has called for a tougher approach for schools that were previously judged outstanding but not doing well by their poorest children, which will be reinspected.

Areas such as Kettering, Wokingham, Norwich and Newbury have been identified as having with ‘hidden’ disadvantaged children in otherwise affluent places.

The London Challenge programme, where successful schools partner with weaker ones, should be rolled out across the country, he suggested.

Sir Michael said: “Today, many of the disadvantaged children performing least well in school can be found in leafy suburbs, market towns or seaside resorts. Often they are spread thinly, as an ‘invisible minority’ across areas that are relatively affluent.

“These poor, unseen children can be found in mediocre schools the length and breadth of our country. They are labelled, buried in lower sets, consigned as often as not to indifferent teaching.

“They coast through education until – at the earliest opportunity – they sever their ties with it. The most important factor in reversing these trends is to attract and incentivise the best people to the leadership of underperforming schools in these areas.

“Our report shows that poverty of expectation is a greater problem than material poverty because we know of examples of schools serving areas of great disadvantage that are doing very well by their children.”

Christine Blower of the National Union of Teachers said: “It really is time government and Ofsted stopped trying to reinvent the wheel and just work with what we know achieves results.”

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