Independent review recommends changes to Norfolk County Council strategies to improve struggling schools

Norfolk County Council assistant director of children services Gordon Boyd. Photo: Steve Adams

Norfolk County Council assistant director of children services Gordon Boyd. Photo: Steve Adams - Credit: Archant

Independent consultants brought in to examine the council's plan to improve Norfolk's schools have praised its 'strong signal of intent' and made a series of recommendations to improve it.

Ofsted said in June that Norfolk County Council's arrangements for supporting school improvement were 'ineffective', and recommended it commission an external review of its A Good School for Every Learner in Norfolk and Norfolk to Good and Great strategies.

The resulting report from education consultants ISOS, released this week, said the plans to ensure all Norfolk schools are at least 'good' by summer 2016 was 'rightly ambitious' though 'challenging', and the new council administration had showed an 'unwavering determination to see the change through'.

It said potential strengths included a classification of schools based on high quality data which should lead to effective prioritisation, and an emphasis on good or outstanding schools in improving struggling schools.

The report also said the council's 'old system' had become discredited in the eyes of schools, and urged it to make it clear there had been a significant change in personnel and that 'this is no longer an 'old boys' network''.

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Gordon Boyd, the council's assistant director of children services, said the council had brought in outside help from Cambridge and London, and was learning lessons from action Devon took to improve rural schools.

The consultants said the council should encourage more outstanding schools to get involved with supporting other schools, and actively promote federation or executive principals for small primary schools.

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They also questioned whether the system has the capacity to deliver the changes quickly enough.

Mr Boyd said in the short term the council would employ the equivalent of three or four intervention officers, but the long term solution depended on schools working together and using their school improvement budgets to fund each other.

He added: 'We were pleased the review confirmed we are working in a different way and we don't accept that not good enough is enough, and also we are using our statutory powers in a way that's pro-active and fits in with this idea of getting a better pace of improvement.'

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