Press release: 9,500 children in Medway are going to a primary school that is not yet good

Ofsted has today published its local authority school improvement inspection of Medway, carried out in March. Inspectors found the local authority’s work with weaker primary schools had not driven improvement quickly enough. And, while there were signs of improvement, pupils’ achievements, rates of progress and the proportion of schools judged good or outstanding remain in the lowest 10% of all local authorities nationally.

The inspection also found that not enough had been done to narrow the achievement gaps between disadvantaged and other pupils across primary, secondary and post-16 education. Arrangements to hold schools to account for their use of pupil premium had not secured good enough outcomes for disadvantaged pupils or those looked after.

However, the appointment of an interim assistant director for school effectiveness and inclusion in May 2014 is starting to have impact. Historical weaknesses have been tackled and more effective collaboration between successful school leaders, teaching alliances and National and Local Leaders of Education has been developed. Expertise from outside Medway is increasingly being introduced to drive improvement in weaker schools.

Commenting on the findings, Ofsted Director for the South East, Sir Robin Bosher, said:

“I welcome the recent school improvement work, which has started to show early benefits in the number of schools judged good or better in Ofsted inspections. However, much of this is too recent to see its full impact.

“I urge the council to use the information, resources and the powers they have at hand to effectively target, support and challenge schools to rapidly improve. The longer a child spends at an underperforming school the more likely their chance to fulfil their potential diminishes.

“Ofsted will continue to monitor Medway council’s arrangements for school improvement and will likely re-inspect it within the next two years.”

Ofsted also found that the local authority had not made enough use of its statutory powers to challenge weaker leadership in primary schools, nor has it tackled the unacceptable variations in students’ achievement, attendance and fixed-term exclusion rates in secondary schools. In addition, the council has not made effective representations to the Regional Schools Commissioner where it has concerns regarding academies; 16 out of the 17 secondary schools in Medway are academies.

However, the council’s early years’ work stood out as a strength. Targeted work has increased the number of children in early years achieving a good level of development, from well below average to above average. Likewise, the proportion of secondary and special schools judged good or outstanding is above that found nationally.

Areas for improvement include:

  • build leadership capacity across Medway schools, particularly in the primary sector. This includes identifying and sharing good or outstanding leadership practice with leaders in schools at risk of decline, so that they can learn from best practice and drive improvement in their schools more effectively
  • further accelerate pupils’ progress in all phases, particularly for disadvantaged pupils, and increase the proportion of good and outstanding schools
  • use data more effectively to identify weaknesses and to target direct support and challenge to areas of greatest need
  • ensure concerns about standards and leadership in academies are referred formally to the Regional Schools Commissioner, to tackle the significant variation in achievement and attendance, particularly in the secondary sector

Notes to editors

  1. The inspection letter to Medway Council is published online.
  2. The inspection of local authority arrangements for supporting school improvement in England is conducted under section 136(1) (b) of the Education and Inspections Act 2006.
  3. The inspection team took account of the outcomes of discussions with leaders in 7 focused school inspections and 17 telephone surveys in schools and academies carried out between 13 and 17 March. Inspectors held telephone discussions with 2 school leaders who requested to speak to them during the inspection. A range of documentation was scrutinised, including the council’s strategic plan, the strategy for school improvement, school performance data, case studies and notes of visits made by local authority school challenge and improvement leaders (SCILS).
  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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