By Sarah Harris
Last updated at 1:39 AM on 30th September 2011
Schools will be penalised if they fail to improve the progress of ‘vulnerable’ groups of pupils such as those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual.
New Ofsted guidelines reveal that heads of primary and secondary schools must show their education ‘meets the needs of the range of pupils’ in their classrooms, including gipsy and traveller children.
Schools could see their teaching being judged ‘inadequate’ if they do not reduce gaps in achievement between different groups who make up a significant proportion of their student population.
New Ofsted guidelines reveal that heads of primary and secondary schools must show their education ‘meets the needs of the range of pupils’ in their classrooms, including gipsy and traveller children. Picture posed by models
However, critics hit out at the inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual pupils in an Ofsted list of groups that could be monitored for signs of progress.
They insist that head teachers will not wish to pry into the private lives of pupils and claim that youngsters should be treated as individuals, not groups.
There are also fears that teachers will feel forced to categorise pupils by their sexuality at a time when they are young and impressionable.
But an Ofsted spokesman insisted last night: ‘It is about schools being aware of the different groups of pupils that might attend their schools and doing all they can to ensure they reach their full potential.
‘These groups could differ depending on the nature and type of school and Ofsted does not have a prescriptive list.’
Today Ofsted unveils a new inspection framework which will make it harder for schools to be ranked ‘outstanding’.
Ofsted unveils a new inspection framework today which will make it harder for schools to be ranked ‘outstanding’. Picture posed by models
From next January, inspectors will concentrate on four key areas: achievement of pupils; quality of teaching and learning; effectiveness of leadership and management, and standards of behaviour and safety.
However, there will be an even greater focus on ‘narrowing gaps in performance’ for different groups of pupils such as ethnic minorities and children in care.
Inspectors will evaluate the standards achieved and progress made by these cohorts compared with other pupils in the school and with national trends.
New Ofsted guidance says: ‘It is important to test the school’s response to individual needs by observing how well it helps all pupils to make progress and fulfil their potential, especially those whose needs, dispositions, aptitudes or circumstances require particularly perceptive and expert teaching and/or additional support.
‘In any particular school, such pupils may include disabled pupils; boys; girls; groups of pupils whose prior attainment may be different from that of other groups; those who are academically more able; pupils for whom English is an additional language; minority ethnic pupils; gipsy, Roma and traveller children; pupils known to be eligible for free school meals; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual pupils; young carers, pupils from low income backgrounds and other vulnerable groups.’
Brian Lightman of the Association of School and College Leaders criticised the highlighting of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual pupils.
He said: ‘I’m not aware of any way in which such pupils might be identified in a school. It would be inappropriate for any headteacher to pry into the private lives of children.’
Russell Hobby of the National Association of Head Teachers said: ‘It would be simpler to say that every pupil should reach their potential. Each school will have different groups and communities.
‘What an inspector used to do, and should do, is go in and look and what the broad types of pupils are and look at whether there are any groups that are falling behind and home in on those.
‘But if you start getting rigid and start defining all these subcategories at length, the data can become less and less meaningful.’
Professor Alan Smithers of Buckingham University branded the list ‘absurd’.
He said: ‘Schools have my sympathy. It’s political correctness that will get in the way of educating every child to his or her potential.’
The new Ofsted framework, which will come into effect in January, applies to all primary and secondary schools in England.