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Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are over represented in 'stubbornly satisfactory' schools that often fail to improve, according to a major report published by the RSA.

(Un)Satisfactory? Enhancing Life Chances by Improving 'Satisfactory' Schools found that those schools with disadvantaged pupil populations are more likely to 'coast', remaining 'stubbornly satisfactory' and not improving between inspections.

View the (Un)Satisfactory? Enhancing Life Chances by Improving 'Satisfactory' Schools report

The RSA's findings are based on data supplied by Ofsted, who also supported the study with analysis of their inspection reports. The report concludes that:

  • 50 percent of satisfactory schools remain satisfactory at their next inspections and 8 percent of them decline to become 'inadequate'.

  • While 52 percent of satisfactory schools serving affluent pupils improved, this is only true of 36 percent of their disadvantaged counterparts.

  • The likelihood of attending a satisfactory school is affected by where you live with Yorkshire and Humber, East Midlands and the East of England regions being the worst affected.

The RSA found there to be an inconsistent quality of teaching, learning and assessment practice within satisfactory schools. The report recommends that the Ofsted's 'satisfactory' category – the third of four categories – be replaced with 'Performing Inconsistently'.

RSA director of education, Professor Becky Francis said:

"Given the larger proportion of 'satisfactory' schools compared to failing schools, they are having a more widespread impact on outcomes for disadvantaged children than are failing schools. It's really urgent that this issue be addressed. Given our findings that the strongest feature of Satisfactory schools is the inconsistent quality of teaching, we need to find ways to incentivise the best teachers to join these schools. These schools need to be directly supported to improve, and to be held accountable for doing so."

The RSA concludes that discussions on 'golden handcuffs'  to tempt good teachers into weaker schools need to be urgently revitalised. The report suggests that first class graduates be given bursaries to undertake Initial Teacher Education training and that the pupil premium ought to be spent on bolstering teacher quality.

The report also calls for:

  • The introduction of a new nationwide support system to facilitate the sharing of best practice, support and advice.

  • Head Teachers of satisfactory schools to be required to deliver a plan to Ofsted outlining how areas of weakness are to be addressed and to submit regular updates on progress.

  • School rated as 'satisfactory' more than twice in a row to be given a notice to improve and treated as if it were an inadequate school.

  • Lessons to be learnt from those schools in disadvantaged areas that have progressed from 'satisfactory' to 'good'.

The RSA report found that certain local authorities have significantly higher proportions of 'satisfactory' schools than others – North Lincolnshire standing out, with Blackpool, Merton, Peterborough, Kingston upon Hull and Bradford all standing at 60 percent and above.

View the (Un)Satisfactory? Enhancing Life Chances by Improving 'Satisfactory' Schools report


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