Ofsted: Bradford needs an education commissioner, chief inspector says

Sir Michael Wilshaw has called for a commissioner role to be created in Bradford to help the city turn around its struggling schools.

The head of Ofsted highlighted the West Yorkshire city as having some of the worst performing schools in the country, and demanded drastic action be taken to help the region.

“I believe the situation is so bad that a commission of enquiry should be set up to investigate the problem. Bradford needs its own commissioner,” Her Majesty’s chief inspector said.

“Let’s not forget what is at stake. If children are poorly educated, they don’t go to university, they don’t get apprenticeships, they don’t get jobs. Educational underperformance leads directly to social alienation. And the dangers of being alienated from British society are very great indeed.”

Sir Michael was speaking at the launch of the watchdog’s annual report, in which he warned that children in the North and the Midlands are far less likely to attend a secondary school rated good or better than those in the South.

The extent to which under-performing secondary schools are concentrated in particular parts of the country is “deeply troubling”, Sir Michael said.

Overall, there are 16 local authority areas in England where fewer than 60 per cent of children attend good or outstanding secondary schools, have lower than national GCSE attainment and make less than national levels of expected progress.

All but three of these are in the North and the Midlands. These areas are Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, Blackpool, Oldham, Doncaster, Bradford, Barnsley, Stoke-on-Trent, Derbyshire, Liverpool, Knowsley, St Helens and Salford.

Sir Michael said Bradford, in particular, was a cause for concern as it had fallen even further behind the rest of the country, leaving the city’s schools “mired in mediocrity”.

“Bradford’s schools have tried various initiatives to try and improve, but improvements have not been sustained,” he said. “Their efforts lacked coordination and, more importantly, the political support that would have made them effective. The city’s schools, like too many in the North, remain mired in mediocrity, failing generation after generation with depressing regularity.”

Sir Michael said Bradford’s social make-up was similar to London’s East End, which “performs very well”. And he questioned whether the city had the political will to improve standards in schools.

Bradford Council criticised the chief inspector’s comments, stating that it had agreed a school improvement strategy with the inspectorate.

Michael Jameson, Bradford Council’s strategic director of children’s services, said: “We have a no-excuses culture and we are clear that overall results have been poor in recent years. But crucially we are taking the right actions to transform standards. Ofsted endorsed our school improvement strategy for Bradford when they inspected us in the summer and they found evidence of a ‘step-change’ in our approach.

“So I would expect Ofsted to support us in delivering our appropriate plans quickly and talk with us directly rather than devising another new system to look at the challenges.”

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