Praise for school improvement efforts

By Ross Findon and Richard Wright

Friday, August 8, 2014

 

OFSTED has acknowledged the significant steps taken to improve Isle of Wight schools.

Ofsted re-inspected the local authority, a year after it found council school improvement support was ineffective.

Since then Isle of Wight education has been taken over by Hampshire County Council and in a letter to the Island authority Ofsted recognised efforts to tackle areas of concern.

"The strategy ensures that the schools in greatest need are the main priority. Successful schools are encouraged to become autonomous and to support those that are weaker," Ofsted said.

As previously reported, the council had been given indications Ofsted was happy with progress at the authority in recent months.

Commenting on the report, education executive member Cllr Richard Priest said: "We have made significant progress over the last 12 months and I would like to thank headteachers, teaching and support staff, pupils, parents and governors, as well as officers, for their hard work and continued support as we drive forward the school improvement programme.

"Raising standards in schools is a priority for the administration and thanks to strong leadership on both sides of the Solent we have been able to make swift progress in turning our educational standards around. It has not been an easy journey and there is clearly more work to do, but it is a real boost for everyone involved to receive such an overwhelmingly positive report from Ofsted."

A council statement issued today (Friday) said inspectors had praised the partnership between the Isle of Wight Council and Hampshire County Council.

It highlighted the close working between elected members and senior officers, which it said had resulted in strong leadership and established "a clear, coherent strategy for improvement which is understood and supported by all schools, including academies."

It also highlighted positive relationships with schools and better pupil performance data.

"The headteachers who spoke to inspectors were of the unanimous view that local authority officers are skilful, credible, have the appropriate expertise and are successful in striking the right balance between challenge and support," the report stated.

It added that additional funding reflected a determination to improve standards.

Conservative education spokesman Cllr Chris Whitehouse said: "This is a very encouraging report and demonstrates not only the hard work being undertaken in our schools by so many senior leadership teams, but also the wisdom of the Secretary of State in directing the Council to bring on board Hampshire to take responsibility for our education and children’s services."

"Clearly, the education community of the Island has taken several steps in the right direction, but let’s be in no doubt about how far we still have to go to get to a stage where all our schools are providing a good or better education."

Findings included:

• The authority has made a significant contribution to improving the quality of school leadership on the Island.

• The local authority has acted quickly to identify schools that are casing concern. Regular strategy meetings are arranged with each school to hold senior leaders to account.

• There is a broad and relevant training problem for governors.

• Almost a fifth of headteachers have been appointed since the previous inspection. The local authority has provided a robust challenge as well as support, to governing bodies, to ensure the right people are appointed to the role.

• The impact of the strengthened arrangements for supporting school improvement us evident in the dramatic rise in attendance, the increase in the proportion of primary schools that are now good, the progress being made by school that require improvement and the solution to the financial problems that have been a barrier to improvement in a number of cases.

• The predicted results for 11 and 16 year olds in 2014 are moving closer to the national averages for 2013 and show a clear improvement since the previous inspection. The exclusion rates are higher than average, but improving.

• The process for gathering and analysing data should be refined to ensure the local authority has an up-to-date and accurate view of pupils’ key achievements.

• The council should formalise and implement plans for identifying strong governors who can provide additional support to schools where governance is weak.

View the 2013 and 2014 reports below:

Isle of Wight Council School Improvement 2014 (Ofsted)

Isle of Wight Council School Improvement 2013 (Ofsted)

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