East Sussex County Council was judged ineffective in an inspection by Ofsted this summer.
- The decline in the proportion of primary schools judged good or better for their overall effectiveness and the “significantly” higher than average proportion judged inadequate.
- The low attainment and progress of pupils in primary schools from 2011 to 2013.
- The wider than average gap between the achievements of pupils known to be entitled to free school meals and other pupils across all key stages.
- The much lower than average proportion of 18-year-olds successfully moving on to education, training or employment.
Eight key areas were outlined for improvement:
- Halt the decline in primary school performance and accelerate the pace of improvement, so that inspection outcomes are at least in line with the national averages by summer 2015.
- Identify and communicate unequivocally to underperforming schools that their rate of improvement is not good enough and follow through with robust monitoring.
- Systematically monitor the impact of support and intervention provided by school improvement services, holding managers to account more effectively for the quality of the provision.
- Rapidly improve and sustain high attainment in English and mathematics by the end of all key stages, especially for pupils known to be eligible for free school meals.
- Ensure all learners have successful transitions between the phases of education training or employment to age 19, and sharply improve Level 3 attainment.
- Provide strong strategic leadership and challenge to schools to support the reduction of temporary exclusions across all types of schools.
- Ensure every school has high calibre leadership and governance and rapidly increase the number of effective leaders in primary schools, through pursuing key local authority strategies such as school-to-school support.
- Provide all governing bodies with timely information and guidance to enable them to evaluate how well their school is performing and provide informed challenge to school leaders.
In a letter to the council the Ofsted inspector Margaret Farrow says: “The council’s decision to reduce funding and take a ‘hands-off’ approach to challenging and supporting schools in 2011 reduced the quality of provision in, and leadership of, primary schools.”
She says that following disappointing school test results in 2012, elected members initiated a review of the local authority’s performance and developed the ‘Excellence for All’ strategy which they began implementing in autumn 2013.
The inspector says: “The council’s ambitions and the sharper focus on improvement are generally understood and welcomed by headteachers and governors. The evidence of improving relationships with the local authority is clear.
“However, a significant minority of headteachers and governing bodies do not share the local authority’s ambition, which is slowing the rate of improvement in some schools.”
East Sussex County Council is acting to address the findings of the inspection with strategies drawn up for the academic years 2014-15 and 2015-16 at a cost of £870,000.
An action plan is to be prepared and reported to Cabinet and Scrutiny giving full details of the improvement strategies and timescales.
More details of the council’s reaction to the inspector’s findings – and a copy of the inspector’s letter – can be found in a report to an East Sussex County Council cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
*No schools were named in the inspector’s report.
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