Ofsted tells Suffolk County Council it “is still not making swift enough progress” on school improvement

Andrew Cook, Ofsted regional director for the East of England. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Andrew Cook, Ofsted regional director for the East of England. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

A major review of Suffolk County Council's plan to improve schools has found progress to be 'too slow', but education bosses insist they are moving in the right direction.

Ofsted published a report into the authority's school improvement plan yesterday and highlighted Lowestoft as one of two areas in the county where there were not enough good or outstanding schools.

The education watchdog praised a number of moves to improve pupils' learning such as introducing a risk assessment which gives schools red, amber or green statuses depending on their progress. It added that 'decisive improvements' had been made in areas of weakness identified in last year's critical report which called the plan 'ineffective'.

Although this year's report states the council is in a 'stronger position' to identify struggling schools because of the risk assessment, 'strained relationships' were caused by the way it was communicated to headteachers and governors.

The report said the council must focus on improving two main areas: to 'rapidly improve achievement, particularly for disadvantaged pupils', and to ensure 'all pupils attend a good or outstanding school'.

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Three quarters of Suffolk schools are rated good or outstanding by Ofsted, against 80pc nationally.

In 2013, Norfolk County Council was the first county to face this type of inspection, when its support for school improvement was found to be 'ineffective'.

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However, a follow-up report, published last summer, found they were 'effective'.

Commenting on the report, Andrew Cook, east of England regional director for Ofsted, said: 'While I recognise that Suffolk County Council has taken positive steps to improve education in their area, and there are signs for optimism, the county is still not making swift enough progress.

'Much of their strategy has been implemented too recently to impact substantially on pupils' outcomes. Pupils' attainment in Suffolk remains below average, particularly for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children.

'As a result, 25,000 children do not attend a good primary or secondary school. This needs to improve.'

Lisa Chambers, cabinet member for education and skills, said there were 'no surprises' in the report and likened the task facing them to that of 'turning an oil tanker'.

She added: 'I've always said it is not a short journey, we have a lot of work to do and are very committed to that and our vision and that's reflected in the letter. There are some very good positive points that they have drawn out of the good work that we are doing.'

Opposition Labour councillors said the Ofsted report was 'highly critical' of the Conservative-controlled council's record. They want more money spent to improve schools.

The report comes at a time when the council is conducting a major restructure of its school improvement service under its 'Making Every Intervention Count' programme as it saves an overall £5m from its Children and Young People's Services department.

Do you have an education story? Email martin.george@archant.co.uk

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