Ofsted hits out at county council over ‘lack of improvement’ in Suffolk’s schools after inspection blitz

Sue Cook, director of children and young people's services at Suffolk County Council
Sue Cook, director of children and young people's services at Suffolk County Council

Education bosses have been blasted by Ofsted over a ‘lack of improvement and decline in standards’ in Suffolk’s schools after a recent blitz of inspections.

Following visits to 33 schools from September 9 to 20 – due to concerns over educational standards in the county – two were rated outstanding, 13 good, 12 required improvement and six inadequate.

In a letter to Sue Cook, Suffolk County Council’s director of children and young people’s services, Sean Harford, Ofsted’s regional director for the East of England, said: “I am very concerned that, by the end of this focus period, there was no increase in the county’s stock of good or outstanding schools and that nearly a fifth of the schools inspected were judged inadequate. This is unacceptable and now means that Suffolk has a higher proportion of pupils educated in inadequate schools than both the regional and national averages.”

He noted there are ‘examples of effective intervention and support from the local authority’ and listed strengths after surveying inspected schools and a further 25 schools by phone. He said schools are ‘well informed’ about the authority’s improvement strategy in Raising the Bar and there were ‘positive comments about effective support and guidance’.

However, Mr Harford cited ‘some scepticism from a majority of those surveyed about the overall strategy for school improvement and the particular focus on the urgent need to improve teaching and learning’.

He said ‘the lack of improvement and decline in standards in so many schools in the focused inspections highlights shortcomings in the local authority’s ability to provide effective support and challenge’. He added: “We are aware the outcomes of the focused inspections largely did not come as a surprise to you. It raises the question, therefore, of why the local authority has not done more to effect improvement.”

Cllr Lisa Chambers, the authority’s cabinet member for education, said improving educational attainment is the council’s ‘top priority’. She said: “We welcome Ofsted inspecting Suffolk schools. We’re pleased the work we and schools are doing has been recognised. We take very seriously the areas of improvement that have been identified and will act on the advice. The latest Key Stage 2 and GCSE results show Suffolk is making progress. This work will most certainly continue.”