Revealed at last - the secret school ratings Suffolk County Council did not want parents to see
- Credit: PA
Today, the Ipswich Star is telling the parents of nearly 100,000 Suffolk pupils vitally important information about their children’s schools – which education chiefs wanted to keep secret.
This newspaper has won a battle to publish the “risk ratings” of nearly 300 schools in the county, after the Information Commissioner told the education authority it must release the data.
In a special four-page report in the print version, we reveal the ratings of every school, so parents can find out whether their children’s school is Red, (high risk) Amber (medium risk), or Green (low risk).
• See today’s print version or download the e-edition here for the full ratings list
Schools with ‘green’ ratings are classed as being in a good position to help students achieve decent results; amber means a school is either moving in the right direction to improve or could be on the decline and red means there is a significant risk of underachievement.
The council refused this newspaper’s request, arguing it was not in the public interest and that it would cause a “chilling effect” between education staff and schools.
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This newspaper disagreed and argued parents should have the right to know how their child’s school – funded by taxpayers – is doing.
We asked the council to review its decision, but it again maintained its position – saying the ratings would be misinterpreted by parents and have a negative effect on schools with red ratings which could have ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ Ofsted reports.
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But some Suffolk schools have deteriorated rapidly between inspections and been placed in special measures just a few years after an ‘outstanding’ report. We argue parents should have up to date information on how their child’s school is performing – with the RAG ratings being issued twice yearly.
We took our fight to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which upheld the complaint and ordered the council to release the ratings.
The ICO said it considered the council’s arguments and the importance of promoting openness and transparency.
A spokesman for the watchdog added it was important for parents to have the information.
“We examined the council’s public interest argument and considered whether or not harm [between the council and schools] is likely to be caused and the circumstances of that,” he said.
“We looked at the council’s argument and concluded that we did not believe that schools would be less cooperative in the future if the information was disclosed.”
Now the ratings are being published for the first time on the opposite page, detailing every Suffolk state-funded school, including academies, free schools and local authority schools with their corresponding red, amber or green rating.
The ratings are worked out by a complex scoring system, which awards or removes points, depending on how students perform at different Key Stages against national averages. The total of the points is then used to give the rating.
Suffolk County Council started rating schools in 2013 to identify risks of poor performance after several years in which the county has been near the bottom of education league tables.
These first became public knowledge in October 2014 when 118 Suffolk primary school headteachers criticised the council over the ratings for “demoralising” schools.
Since then education bosses have worked with them to improve the ratings, which now show the trend between red, amber and green statuses.
And there has been success – with 40% more schools rated green than a year ago. This improvement is reflected in the progress made elsewhere – as now 78% of schools are rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted compared to a year ago when it was 74%.
According to October’s RAG ratings, there are almost 110 green schools, 105 amber and 85 red. In terms of schools rated as outstanding and marked red there are two, with 40 schools said to be good also being rated red.
Education bosses say this information, which provides a “snapshot” of school standards, will help them support schools which are at risk of having downgraded Ofsted reports or declining exam results.
If you have an education story, call Matt Hunter on 01473 324802 or contact him via email