Report praises schools in Essex

THE quality of education in Essex has been praised by Government inspectors but bosses have been told there is room for improvement in a number of key areas.

THE quality of education in Essex has been praised by Government inspectors but bosses have been told there is room for improvement in a number of key areas.

The Ofsted report followed visits in September and October last year with the findings published yesterday.

The inspectors found the local education authority has made "highly satisfactory" progress since its last inspection.

Essex has a school population of more than 200,000 pupils and one of the highest proportions of foundation schools in the country, with more than 100 boasting specialist status.

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The main findings of the report said the authority knew its main strengths and weaknesses.

It stated: "The restructuring of services for children and young people, the visionary leadership of senior officers and the strengthened cross-service and multi-agency working have positioned the authority well for further improvement.

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"There is a cautious optimism from schools about future development. However, there is scope for much more involvement of headteachers, governors and other partners in influencing policy, shaping practice and informing political decision making."

Strengths highlighted included:

n Highly satisfactory progress since the last inspection.

n Determined approach of senior officers.

n "Well conceived" initiatives showing measurable improvements in standards and attendance.

n Support for special educational needs.

However, areas for improvement included:

n Providing support to ensure schools respond promptly and confidently to racist incidents.

n Schools expressed some "significant concerns" about the speed and nature of the response to referrals about children in need of protection.

n Developing further triggers to identify weak leadership and management in schools.

n Seeking to ensure schools make effective use of their budgets.

Responding to the report, Lord Hanningfield, the leader of the council, said: "We cannot be complacent but what matters is we are heading in the right direction.

"We are very encouraged by the fact that Ofsted has recognised the strides that have been made since the last inspection and our commitment and aspirations for continual improvement in the future.

"Ofsted also noted the 'visionary leadership' amongst our senior staff, the sharply focused action plans for improving standards in our schools and the good quality support that Essex County Council provides.

"In short, this Ofsted report shows that our ambitions for improving education in Essex are not only well on track but also well planned and well delivered.

"We shall look carefully at the areas identified as being areas for improvement and shall look forward to including those in our improvement plans for the future."

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