Release date: 01/12/2016

The Ofsted annual report into the education system in England has been published today by Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector (HMCI).


Presenting his fifth and final report as HMCI before stepping down this month, Sir Michael said “a world class education system is within our grasp – but only if serious capacity challenges are urgently addressed”.  

Sir Michael also stressed that a north/south ‘geographical divide’ meant the most able pupils in the North and Midlands were less likely to reach A/A* at GCSE. He said: “Standards can only truly be considered high if they are high in every part of the country and for all pupils regardless of background or ability.”

As well as the report’s main headlines, there were several points made throughout the report about school governance.

Emma Knights, Chief Executive of the National Governors Association, said: “It is pleasing that an increasing number of schools in England are rated good or outstanding, especially given the pressure on finances and staffing, as well as changes to assessment, the curriculum and school structures.   

“Five years ago the Chief Inspector brought more scrutiny to school governance with a new inspection framework and dedicated space for governance in Ofsted reports. This was a positive move, which gave more prominence to governance. Unfortunately, Ofsted has not kept pace with governance in groups of schools, that is, federations and multi academy trusts. This is exemplified by the fact that trustees aren't mentioned in today's report. 

"Replacing the 'satisfactory' grade with 'requires improvement' provided a real and necessary push to school improvement. It is a testament to those working in schools that they have achieved this for their pupils but we are concerned that some schools rated outstanding many years ago, under the old inspection framework, may no longer be as good as they think. 

“We salute Sir Michael for fiercely championing disadvantaged pupils. Like HMCI, governing boards are very concerned about the geographical divide, narrowing the attainment gap and addressing frequent and fundamental problems recruiting school leaders. NGA looks forward to building on the work that we have done with HMCI and his team over the last five years to tackle these difficult issues head on and improve the governance of schools in England.”

The report’s headlines were:

  • For the sixth year in a row, the proportion of good and outstanding nurseries, pre-schools and childminders has risen and now stands at 91%. The proportion of good and outstanding nurseries is now almost the same in the most deprived areas of the country as in the least deprived;
  • The proportion of good and outstanding primary schools has risen from 85% in 2015 to 90% in 2016;
  • Secondary schools have improved and 78% are now good or outstanding compared to 74% in 2015. However, secondary schools in the North and Midlands are still behind the rest of the country;
  • Pressures on the supply of secondary teachers have not abated. Fifteen of the 18 curriculum subjects had unfilled training places this year;
  • In some parts of the country, fewer than 40% of pupils in receipt of special educational needs support are progressing well;
  • Only one in four primary schools were found to be at a good stage of developing an assessment system in the absence of levels.


Earlier this year Ofsted conducted a survey about school governance and received 2600 responses including NGA’s submission. The finding of this survey will be published later in December. Meanwhile, Ofsted’s observations and key points about school governance in its annual report were that:

  • Governors play an important role in improving schools. As changes within the education system place more power in the hands of governing boards, their importance will continue to grow;
  • At the root of much school failure is weak governance. In the 2015/16 academic year, inspectors recommended an external review of governance in 295 schools, which is a third of all the schools judged to require improvement or to be inadequate this year;
  • 180 Inspectors visited 24 recently improved schools in some of the poorest areas of the country. Neither the types of school, nor the structure of governance, were the reasons for the original weaknesses in governance. In order to improve, they needed to become more self-aware. Two thirds of the survey schools had not engaged in any self-evaluation of governance prior to being found to be less than good;
  • All of the boards needed to develop the professional knowledge, understanding and insight within the Board. However, over 1,600 responses to the call-for-evidence from governors told Ofsted that it is difficult to access high quality professional support and training;
  • National Leaders of Governance and Professional Clerks are in short supply. Boards also told Ofsted that they are finding it difficult to appoint people who possess the required expertise for the role and who are willing to take on the responsibility and be accountable;
  • Around three quarters of respondents to the call for evidence reported that recruitment and retention were significant challenges for the sector;
  • Schools are reporting that they are finding it difficult to recruit headteachers. Two fifths of governors say they find it hard to recruit to senior staff posts;
  • Governing bodies play an important role in challenging senior leaders on the achievement of disadvantaged pupils. Over half of the 2,600 responses to the call-for-evidence identified a commitment and knowledge of the local community as an essential aspect of good governance. For those schools in deprived areas, improving governance involved working hard to understand the particular issues in the community and finding innovative ways in which to address disadvantage;
  • In good and outstanding special schools inspected this year, governors provided robust challenge and support. They held leaders to account rigorously for pupils’ progress and well-being. They were clearly focused on the responsibilities of the school to secure the highest outcomes for each young person in both their academic and personal development;
  • England’s schools system continues to grow in diversity. Regardless of whether a school is an academy, an independent school or maintained by the local authority, the quality of the school depends on attracting and retaining the best teachers and leaders. The ability of a school to maintain its performance or to improve depends on the effectiveness of the oversight and challenge the school receives. This means that highly skilled governors, high-performing multi-academy trusts and active sponsors are more important than ever.

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