Damning Ofsted report slams Suffolk County Council for failing schools
PUBLISHED: 13:23 04 March 2014 | UPDATED: 13:23 04 March 2014
Efforts to improve the county’s schools by Suffolk County Council have been slammed as wholly ineffective by Ofsted.
In a highly critical letter published today, Ofsted accuses the council of damaging the life chances of young people by its failure to challenge and support schools.
The letter is the result of an inspection of the way the local authority is working to improve education.
Suffolk’s primary and secondary school’s are performing well below the national average.
* Pupil performance at Key Stages 2 and 4 in Suffolk is well below the national average.
* The council’s strategy to challenge and support schools is weak – this has left some schools languishing in mediocrity.
* Officials have been tardy in addressing poor leadership in council-run schools.
* They have not communicated well with school leaders, many of whom are unaware of the local authority’s role in realising rapid improvement.
* There needs to be better and more consistent use of information by local authority staff to intervene quickly when schools are in trouble.
Last year Norfolk, together with the Isle of Wight, was the first local authority in England to face the new type of inspection. Like Suffolk today, Norfolk County Council came in for heavy criticism from Ofsted, which said its support for school improvements was “ineffective”.
The Ofsted report into Suffolk did find that councillors and senior local authority officials are ambitious and determined to bring about improvements in Suffolk schools.
But not enough has been done to make the improvements that are needed, including the council’s ‘Raising the Bar’ initiative.
Sean Harford, Ofsted regional director for the East of England, said: “Too few pupils in Suffolk attend a good or outstanding school, and far too many attend inadequate schools. That is unacceptable.
“It is disappointing to find that Suffolk County Council has been ineffective in the way it supports schools. The local authority has not tackled weaknesses in schools quickly enough. That just isn’t good enough when the prospects for the young people of the county are at stake.
“In the summer of 2012 the council launched its “Raising the Bar” policy as it recognised the need to raise education achievement. But there have been no significant improvements in pupils’ attainment since that time and there is still no clear strategy for how the local authority will make improvements.
“We will keep working with the council and Suffolk schools so that more get to good or better.”
Ofsted’s damning report of the council’s failures in supporting Suffolk’s schools “makes sobering reading”, says education chief.
Councillor Lisa Chambers, cabinet member for education, skills and young people, welcomes the report, which accuses the council of being ineffective in its arrangements for support school improvement.
Ofsted had been concerned that pupils in Suffolk’s primary and secondary schools are performing well below national averages. The letter is the result of an inspection of the way the local authority is working to improve education in the county’s schools. It accuses them of damaging the life chances of young people.
Mrs Chambers said: “Ofsted’s report makes sobering reading, and rightly so.
“There are few issues of greater significance than the education our young people receive and if advice needs to be given, it ought to be heard – loud and clear.
“We welcome Ofsted’s report and absolutely agree with the four areas of improvement they have identified. So much so that work to address each of them is already well underway. This report confirms that we are tackling the right issues so that the county council is in the best possible position to support and challenge schools to improve.
“We will now, with this guidance from Ofsted, continue on our journey of improvement. Results are improving in Suffolk, but too slowly. And although 70% of schools in Suffolk are rated good or outstanding, this isn’t enough. We must all work to drive up standards.
“Key to solving a problem is recognising there is one in the first place. By launching the Raising the Bar inquiry, seeing SOR through and challenging underperforming schools to improve, the county council has demonstrated this recognition. Schools also know full well the scale of the challenge facing Suffolk. We’re already working, together, to make improvements and will leave no stone unturned in our pursuit of a better future for our children.”