Launching his fifth and final annual report, outgoing chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw said that while England’s education system still fell short of being world class – some parts were closer to achieving that status than they have ever been.
However, in some parts of the country, fewer than 40% of pupils in receipt of special educational needs support are progressing well.
England also faces a widening skills gap, and teacher shortages also continue to be a concern.
Sir Michael Wilshaw said: “We have seen some significant improvements even over the five years that I have been chief inspector.
“The gains for children under the age of 11, in particular, are remarkable. For this younger age group, we are now closer than we have ever been to an education system where your family background or where you live does not necessarily determine the quality of teaching you receive or the outcomes you achieve.”
However, Sir Michael said: “Last year, I highlighted the disproportionate number of secondary schools that are less than good in the North and Midlands, compared with the South and East of England.
“This year, the gap has widened slightly. The geographic divides within the country are particularly acute for the most able pupils and those who have special educational needs.”
The Ofsted annual report 2015/16 highlights that overall standards are rising, with 1.8m more pupils in good or outstanding maintained schools in 2016 than in 2010.
Key finding include:
* 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 69% to 90% in 5 years. The reading ability of pupils eligible for free school meals at age 7 in 2015 was 6 percentage points closer to the level of their peers than 5 years ago
* Secondary schools have improved and 78% are now good or outstanding. However, secondary schools in the North and Midlands are still behind the rest of the country. The proportion of pupils who achieved highly by the end of primary school who then went on to achieve A/A* in their GCSEs in the North and Midlands was 6 percentage points lower than in the rest of the country
* The demand for secondary teachers is still not being met and 15 of the 18 curriculum subjects had unfilled training places this year.
Sir Michael said the government also needed to address the disparity in the quality of academic and technical pathways.
“One of the great achievements of the past decade has been the rise in the proportion of students going on to higher education. However, far more needs to be done to ensure that all young people are equipped with the skills they will need to compete in the local workforce, let alone the global one.
“Many FE colleges are facing a period of continuing turmoil while the quality of apprenticeship programmes remains patchy.
“The country is facing serious knowledge and skills gaps that threaten the competitiveness of our economy. The decision to leave the European Union has thrown this issue into even sharper relief. As a nation, we can either intervene to inject the system with the vision, skills and energy it needs, or we can be content with the status quo and the consequences of our failure to improve the quality and status of technical education over many years.”