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Deprived schools ‘stuck in cycle of low performance’

CLASSROOMS in deprived areas are a ‘dumping ground’ for problem children, according to inspectors from Ofsted.

Around 415 schools in England are labelled as ‘stuck’ in a cycle of low performance, with no ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ ratings after four inspections since September 2006.

An estimated 210,000 pupils are educated at these schools, despite the system of support, intervention and inspection designed to improve them, an Ofsted report said.

It found many ‘stuck’ schools reported low levels of literacy and employment among parents.

It said some children ‘are reportedly sent to school hungry and allowed to stay up late on social media or to access inappropriate material on the internet’.

Others ‘try to get excluded so that they can return home because they are concerned that their parents are victims of domestic abuse’.

One senior staff member told Ofsted inspectors the school they taught at was a ‘dumping ground’.

Another said: ‘We get all the mid-year transfers and I’ve yet to see one where there aren’t serious concerns… with safeguarding or behaviour.’ Ofsted said stuck schools had a ‘deep and embedded culture’ making them resistant to change, while others were ‘inundated’ with central and local government initiatives that failed to meet their needs.

It said Derby, Southend-on-Sea and Darlington had the highest proportion of stuck schools.

Surrey, Devon and Manchester had the lowest.

Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman said: ‘Stuck schools are facing a range of societal problems such as cultural isolation, a jobs market skewed towards big cities and low expectations from parents.’

But Dr Mary Bousted, of the National Education Union, said: ‘Schools in deprived circumstances are much more likely to find it hard to get out of the Ofsted category than schools in leafy suburbs.

‘Fear of Ofsted is a key factor in school leader and teacher flight.’

Stephen Rollett, of the Association of School and College Leaders, added the high churn of head teachers was due to Ofsted’s ‘system of inspections and performance tables which is extremely harsh and makes leadership perilous’.

■ ECO-CONSCIOUS students might think twice about going on school trips in the future, a headteacher said. Young people are more aware of their environmental impact, said Jane Prescott, incoming president of the Girls’ Schools Association. Asked if this could affect outings, Ms Prescott, head of fee-paying Portsmouth High School GDST, replied: ‘I do think so. They might not do as many trips or consider the value of that trip.’ Suggesting schools could support overseas projects without visiting, she added: ‘How can they be sending children all over the world if they’re going to want to be off-setting their carbon footprint?’