Many Norfolk schools 'must do better'

STEVE DOWNES Tens of thousands of Norfolk children are being sold short because more than half of the county's schools do not give them a good education, it was revealed last night.


Tens of thousands of Norfolk children are being sold short because more than half of the county's schools do not give them a good education, it was revealed last night.

Of 174 schools inspected by Ofsted in 2006-07, 89 were given a “satisfactory” or “inadequate” rating - levels attacked by inspectors for being unacceptable.

And in the same 12 months, the number of schools in special measures - the category reserved for failing schools - shot up to 11, the highest level for many years.

Last night, education chiefs said they were “working their socks” off to bring about a countywide improvement.

And they revealed that they were trying to force underachievers to raise their game by handing out a checklist of 10 basics that every school must have in place to stand a chance of being rated “good” or “outstanding”.

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The Norfolk figures are reflected nationally, according to Ofsted's annual report, which was published yesterday.

The watchdog's chief inspector Christine Gilbert highlighted a series of inadequacies that she said were “letting down” a generation of young people.

She said: “I make no apology for emphasising our ambition and our sense of urgency. I see no reason why every school should not now aspire to be a good school.”

Peter Harwood, Labour's shadow cabinet member for education at Norfolk County Council, said: “I accept that this is seen as a national problem and there are issues about Ofsted moving the inspection goalposts.

“However, we cannot afford to be complacent and should be very concerned for our Norfolk youngsters and the implications if these results are a trend.”

Seven Norfolk schools were rated “outstanding” in the school year, with 78 found to be “good”. But 73 were “satisfactory” and 16 “inadequate” - including four given a notice to improve and 12 put in special measures. One has since been taken out.

Fred Corbett, Norfolk's deputy director of children's services, said: “One of our missions is to get lots more schools into the 'good' category.

“Everybody's working their socks off. Norfolk is not failing its youngsters in any way, and we are certainly in no way complacent.

“Among the satisfactory schools there may be a lot of good features. What we do in those schools, which is the vast majority in Norfolk, is build on the many good things to make them more consist-ently good across the board.”

Mr Corbett added that there had been a “huge number more inspections than ever before”, with the new regime of short-notice visits coming in during the last year.

He said a number of the schools put in special measures were those that were coming to the end of their lives because of the reorganisation that would consign middle schools to the history books.

And many were schools serving some of the county's “most challenging commun-ities” in inner Norwich, Thetford and Yarmouth.

Suffolk's schools reversed the national trend, with 15 rated outstanding and 68 good, with just 32 satisfactory and five inadequate. Four went into special measures in

2006-07 and two came out.

Cambridgeshire did not release comprehensive statistics, but revealed that two schools went into special measures in 2006-07, including The Queen's School in Wisbech, while 14 were rated “outstanding”.

Ofsted chief Ms Gilbert warned that there was an “alarming and unacceptable” gap between school results for pupils from affluent homes and the most disadvantaged children.

The annual report also highlighted the fact that half of secondary schools inspected in the year were judged as “satisfactory” or worse, while one in 10 was “inadequate”.

Ms Gilbert also emphasised a series of shortcomings, including poor behaviour and pupils' ignorance of what it meant to be British.

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