In his second annual report published today Sir Michael Wilshaw said that from January inspectors will make no-notice visits to schools where poor behaviour has been identified.
Around 700,000 children attend schools where behaviour needs to improve, he said.
While ‘the battle against mediocrity’ in schools in England was slowly being won, the quality of education still varies too widely across the country and there is significant underachievement among low-income families, and particularly White children, he said.
Nevertheless, the report highlights that eight out of ten schools in England are now good or better, the highest proportion since Ofsted began 20 years ago.
Sir Michael is also urging the Government to re-introduce formal assessment for children at the end of Key Stage 1.
The chief inspector is backing the Government’s move to measuring progress from the start of Reception to Key Stage 1, but said that inspectors had noticed ‘worrying inconsistencies’ to teacher assessment at the end of Key Stage 1.
‘In infant schools, for example, children are more likely to be assessed as reaching, or exceeding, the standards expected for their age than they are in all-through primary schools,’ he said.
He also criticised ‘uneven moderation by local authorities’ for leading to poor quality assessments.
Sir Michael said, ‘Looking at the evidence across all sectors, there are unmistakeable signs that England’s education system is gradually improving.’
‘If our destination is the high peaks of a world class education system and the economic benefits that follow, we are now in the foothills.’
‘Serious challenges remain and all the while, many of our international competitors are improving at a faster rate than we are.
‘It is not an exaggeration to report that the story of our schools and colleges today is a tale of two nations. Children from similar backgrounds with similar abilities, but who happen to be born in different regions and attend different schools and colleges, can end up with widely different prospects because of the variable quality of their education.’
There has also been ‘a marked gain’ in primary schools with only three local authorities where six out of ten schools do not have good or outstanding grades, compared to 2011/12 when there were 23 local authorities which had fewer than six out of ten primary schools with good or better grades.
Ofsted’s annual report is based on the findings of more than 8,500 inspections carried out during 2012/13 of schools and further education colleges.
A separate report into social care was published for the first time in October.
An annual report dedicated to early education will be published by Ofsted in early 2014, because it is ‘such a crucial area’, Ofsted said.
‘Ofsted is acutely conscious of the important role of early years education in alleviating social disadvantage. Tackling inequality at the earliest
possible opportunity is the most effective way of ensuring that children reach their full potential,’ the annual report said.
Teaching unions spoke out against the proposal to re-introduce formal testing.
Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said, ‘Recommendations to bring in formal testing at Key Stage 1 is an unhelpful step. We already have formal assessment in the early years and the phonics check at age five. This is all too much testing too soon. Despite the fact that 90 per cent of countries around the world begin formal schooling at age six or seven, in England the belief prevails that starting sooner will lead to better results later. There is little regard to the importance of emotional and social development and instead the focus is on reaching assessment targets, which leads to testing children earlier and earlier.’
She added, ‘Allegations of a “poverty of expectation” are insulting to teachers. Schools can control some of the factors over children’s lives but not all of them. We have to tackle the inequalities in society if we are to tackle the low achievement of working class pupils. While no teacher would use this as an excuse, it is a plain fact that social background has a very significant impact on the achievement of children. Good quality early years education alongside a relevant and engaging curriculum and examination system is essential.’
Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and lecturers (ATL), said, ‘We should celebrate the enormous hard work of teachers and lecturers in continually improving the education they provide for children and young people, under increasingly difficult circumstances.
‘However, in detailing its criticisms of teachers, leaders and schools, Ofsted has failed to put this hard work in context. Many children and young people are now living with poverty, homelessness and hunger, which makes it harder for them to concentrate and learn. Ofsted also fails to examine the impact of government policy, in particular allowing unqualified teachers and lecturers to teach in state funded schools and colleges.’
The union also said that initial teacher training was being destabilised with the untested School Direct programme and called for teachers to have an entitlement to high quality continuous professional development.