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The life chances of Suffolk's children are being damaged by the local authority's failure to challenge and support its schools, according to a damning verdict from Ofsted.
The education watchdog has consistently criticised education standards in Norfolk and Suffolk and today slammed the County Council for being too slow to intervene when schools are under-performing.
Suffolk County Council today said they took onboard the criticisms, but added they are already making changes.
Elodie Harper reports.
Suffolk County Council is already working to address the four areas for improvement. Key actions include:
- The development of a four year improvement strategy which will be published later this month
- The council will work with school leaders to ensure their role in the strategy is understood
- A more robust stance with under performing schools
- Developing a more robust quality assurance regime
Reorganising schools is a major strand of the county’s approach in tackling historic underperformance in schools - moving to a primary and secondary system.
The areas that have been reorganised in Suffolk, including Lowestoft, Haverhill, Forest Heath and Waveney, are already outperforming three tier areas.
Suffolk County Council has responded to a report, published by Ofsted today, following an inspection into its arrangements for supporting school improvement.
Councillor Lisa Chambers, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for education, skills and young people, said:
"Ofsted’s report makes sobering reading, and rightly so. There are few issues of greater significance than the education our young people receive and if advice needs to be given, it ought to be heard – loud and clear.
“We welcome Ofsted’s report and absolutely agree with the four areas of improvement they have identified. So much so that work to address each of them is already well underway.
This report confirms that we are tackling the right issues so that the county council is in the best possible position to support and challenge schools to improve.
We will now, with this guidance from Ofsted, continue on our journey of improvement. Results are improving in Suffolk, but too slowly. And although 70% of schools in Suffolk are rated good or outstanding, this isn’t enough. We must all work to drive up standards.
Ofsted have criticised Suffolk County Council for not doing enough to challenge or support schools.
Ofsted recommends that:
- The Council must urgently communicate and implement its plans to improve quality
- Improve communication between the local authority and school leaders
- The council must rapidly dentify and resolve emerging problems in schools
- Implement better quality checks
Now that Suffolk County Council’s education support has been found to be ineffective, Ofsted will monitor developments and re-inspect within a year.
Ofsted say Suffolk County Council is not doing enough to challenge or support schools.
Sean Harford, Ofsted Regional Director for the East of England, said:
Education watchdog Ofsted have said Suffolk County Council is failing to challenge and support schools.
In a letter to the authority, Ofsted says its concerned pupils in Suffolk’s primary and secondary schools are performing well below national averages.
The letter is the result of an inspection of the way the local authority is working to improve education in the county’s schools.
Among the areas which Ofsted found needed improvement were it said performance at Key Stages 2 and 4 in Suffolk is well below the national average.
The council’s strategy to challenge and support schools is weak – leaving some schools languishing in mediocrity.
Officials have been tardy in addressing poor leadership in council-run schools.
More positively, Ofsted did find that local councillors and senior local authority officials are ambitious and determined to bring about improvements in Suffolk schools.
But not enough has been done to make the improvements that are needed.