Press release: Stoke-on-Trent council failing to improve the city’s schools

Following a local authority school improvement inspection in January, Ofsted has today (25 March 2015) published its letter to the council, advising it of the findings.

Inspectors found the local authority’s arrangements for sustained improvement in the city’s schools was still not good enough. Despite ambitious targets to improve standards, the area was still one of the worst in England for the number of good and outstanding primary and secondary schools.

Ofsted also found that children in the city were underperforming at most of the key phases of their education. This includes poor development in the Early Years Foundation Stage, low standards for children at age seven and those at GCSE level.

While the council had set themselves ambitious targets to improve standards in schools, inspectors found that these targets were unrealistic and therefore had been missed.

Other factors which were hindering improvement in Stoke-on-Trent schools include:

  • the varying quality of school governance across the authority area
  • poor targeting of additional funding for pupils and schools in greatest need of support
  • poor analysis of pupil performance data, resulting in poorly targeted improvement which leaves some schools at risk of further decline

Despite the improvements needed, inspectors did find reasons to be optimistic. The local authority’s approach to improvement was more rigorous, with school-to-school support programmes evolving well. This was having the knock-on effect of improving leadership capacity in the city’s schools. Pupils at the end of primary school were also making better progress and the achievement gap between disadvantaged and other pupils was closing.

Commenting on the report, Ofsted’s Director for the West Midlands, Lorna Fitzjohn, said:

“Despite efforts by the local authority to improve standards, Stoke-on-Trent lingers in the bottom 10 authority areas for the proportion of good or outstanding primary schools.

“Equally as poor is the fact that the area is in the bottom 20 per cent in England for the number of good or outstanding secondary schools. This means that over 5,500 secondary school children in Stoke-on-Trent are attending a school that is not yet good enough.

“However, the council’s plans are laying the foundation for sustained improvement. It is vital that it works to bring up standards to at least the national averages. This should be achieved in part by making sure more pupils gain five good GCSEs as well as closing the attainment gap between disadvantaged and other pupils.

“Some green shoots are evident, though there is still a significant way to go before children in Stoke-on-Trent are getting a standard of education which they deserve.”

Ofsted will continue to monitor Stoke-on-Trent’s arrangements for school improvement in order to encourage rapid progress in raising standards in the city’s schools.

Notes to editors

  1. The inspection letter to Stoke-on-Trent City Council is published online.
  2. The school improvement inspection took place between 19 and 23 January 2015. During the inspection, discussions were held with officers, elected members, and personnel at the council. Inspectors scrutinised the local authority’s arrangements for school improvement, reviewed the most recent inspection outcomes for schools in the city and took account of the feedback from school and academy leaders.
  3. The framework for the inspection of local authority arrangements for supporting school improvement is online. The aim of local authority school improvement inspection is to assist local authorities in their duty to promote high standards and fulfilment of potential so that all children and young people benefit from at least a good education. The inspection framework acts as a powerful lever for improvement by helping to challenge inconsistencies. It enables Ofsted to report more rigorously on the contribution of local authorities to improving education in England. The inspection is not universal. Ofsted will normally inspect only where concerns about performance are apparent or where requested to do so by the Secretary of State.
  4. The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects to achieve excellence in the care of children and young people, and in education and skills for learners of all ages. It regulates and inspects childcare and children’s social care, and inspects the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), schools, colleges, initial teacher training, work-based learning and skills training, adult and community learning, and education and training in prisons and other secure establishments. It assesses council children’s services, and inspects services for looked after children, safeguarding and child protection.

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