Two leading Bury St Edmunds headteachers say a damning report on Suffolk County Council’s ‘ineffective’ efforts to drive school improvement comes as little surprise and is a ‘wake-up call’.
Ofsted has blasted the authority’s ‘weak’ support strategy for schools with officers failing to intervene ‘quickly enough in those that are declining’. It found that some schools have been left to ‘languish far too long in mediocrity’.
Cllr Lisa Chambers, cabinet member for education, said the report made for ‘sobering reading’ but stressed that the council was already addressing Ofsted’s concerns.
Among its recommendations, the watchdog urged the authority to finalise strategic plans for improvement and ensure interventions in under-performing schools lead to rapid improvements.
Sean Harford, Ofsted regional director for the East of England, said: “It is disappointing to find SCC has been ineffective in the way it supports schools. The local authority has not tackled weaknesses in schools quickly enough. That just isn’t good enough when the prospects for the young people of the county are at stake.”
Geoff Barton, head at King Edward VI School, said the report was a ‘real wake-up call’ but was expected as the county’s attainment results ‘aren’t high enough’. He said: “The real issue is ‘does it come as a surprise to any of us?’. If it did then I would be more concerned because it would suggest the authority is complacent. The fact the authority has accepted the recommendations and already put in place much of what has been suggested ought to reassure parents and teachers this is an authority determined to reach improvement.”
Vicky Neale, head at County Upper School, said she was saddened to read ‘such a critical Ofsted letter’ but felt there was ‘nothing in it which comes as any surprise’. She said: “For far too long the education service has been in continuous decline and I hope the local authority will now, at last, be able to find the high quality support and resources it needs to give the children of Suffolk the start in life they deserve.”
Cllr Chambers said the report confirmed the council was ‘tackling the right issues’. She said: “Key to solving a problem is recognising there is one in the first place. By launching the Raising the Bar inquiry, seeing SOR through and challenging under-performing schools to improve, the county council has demonstrated this recognition.”
The council is preparing to publish a four-year school improvement strategy this month.