Weak leadership and a lack of challenge within the Poole local authority in Dorset have led to disadvantaged pupils having some of the worst educational outcomes in the country, according to Ofsted.
Inspectors found the local authority had “no clear strategy for improvement” for its poorest students and warned there was no “coordinated response” to improving standards by officials.
“As a result, the progress and attainment of disadvantaged pupils remain below that of disadvantaged pupils nationally, at all stages of their education except in early years,” the report states.
Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has repeatedly raised concerns about the quality of education on offer to children in coastal regions.
The inspectorate came to its conclusions after a series of discussions with council leaders, councillors and headteachers, as well as two dozen phone calls with schools and four separate inspections.
The watchdog found that “leaders do not articulate clearly an ambitious vision for the strategic improvement of education in Poole”. And any plans that are in place “lack precision and clarity and have few targets against which to measure progress”.
In its letter to the local authority, which has 41 schools in its catchment area, Ofsted urged council members to tackle the underachievement of the poorest pupils “without delay” and to “urgently address the underachievement of all other groups of pupils in Poole”.
According to Tanya Ovenden-Hope, director of education with the Cornwall College Group, who published a study looking at the challenges facing coastal towns, changing the school culture is essential to raising standards.
“The most successful schools in changing school culture were notable for the ‘vision’ of the school leaders for changing young people’s lives and focused on improving the quality of teaching and learning once acceptable student behaviour had been established,” Dr Ovenden-Hope said.