Suffolk bottom of Ofsted eastern region secondary school ratings table – but improvements are being made, say education bosses
- Credit: Archant
More needs to be done to drive up standards at Suffolk schools, education bosses have said as an annual Ofsted report placed the county at the bottom of a regional table for secondary education.
Improvements are being made, the study reveals, with the percentage of secondary schools judged as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ – increasing from 66% last year to 74% this year.
At primary school level, almost nine in ten (89%) of schools in Suffolk achieved at least a ‘good’ grade from the watchdog.
However, the 74% secondary school figure places it at the bottom of 11 authorities in the east of England.
It is also the only county listed failing to meet the national average of 89%.
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Meanwhile, Essex ranked highly in the table – with 94% of secondary schools getting ‘good’ grades compared with 93% at primary level.
Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for education Gordon Jones said that altogether, across primary and secondary schools, 87% are rated as good or outstanding by Ofsted.
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“Suffolk schools have made rapid progress since the Raising the Bar programme was launched,” he said.
“Suffolk is progressing faster than the national average and has narrowed the gap from 6% to less than 3%.”
But he added: “There is more to be done and we will continue support schools to drive up standards.”
One school in Suffolk – Gusford Community Primary School in Ipswich – was listed by Ofsted as being among more than 100 consistently under-performing schools in England and Wales.
Gusford Primary has failed to record a good rating for more than a decade, since 2005. Bosses at the academy sponsored school, run by The Active Learning Trust, said they are confident that the school is now improving.
Back in June, it was ranked as ‘requires improvement’ with inspectors suggesting there were safeguarding and leadership issues.
Claire Claydon, formerly headteacher at the ‘good’ rated Brightlingsea Junior School in Essex, took over as permanent leader in September.
Suffolk NUT secretary Graham White warned failing schools – particularly academies – must get the support they need if education bosses want the situation to improve.
He said: “Most academies failing to improve in Suffolk are in deprived areas.
“There is not enough focus on deprivation and how it can affect a school, particularly the children who go there.
“If you want schools to improve in Suffolk and nationally, you have to have better funding, recruit more headteachers, teachers and teaching assistants.
“In our view the focus of education also needs to change from purely academic to concentrating on pupils.”
But the head of Ofsted warned today that disadvantaged pupils should not be used as an excuse.
Amanda Spielman said: “There is no doubt that the leadership challenge facing some schools is great.
“But progress is possible and we should all be wary of using the make-up of a school community as an excuse for under-performance.”
Four schools in Norfolk – which saw 90% of its secondary schools ranked as good or outstanding compared with 82% of its primary schools – were also considered to be consistently under-performing.
Two were also listed in Cambridgeshire, which had 84% of its primary schools making the grade compared with 83% of its secondaries – a jump of 20% from the 2016 report.
Addressing the overall picture in Suffolk and north Essex, Ofsted’s regional director for the east of England Paul Brooker said they are seeing more schools going up a grade than down.
But he added: “It is a concern that secondary schools in Suffolk have fallen below the national level. We do have some schools that have got a bit stuck, they have failed to get out of the requires improvement band.
“I think that’s the real challenge.
“It’s all about recruitment and promoting high quality teaching and learning.”
He also congratulated Essex on its success, and added: “Essex has done well, if you look back five years ago it was below the national figures.
“It has been really uncompromising about challenging its schools.
“It got on this agenda sooner than others which is why they are now seeing the results.”
Essex County Council’s cabinet member for education Ray Gooding said: “We are committed to working with schools to ensure all pupils receive the best possible education and I am delighted with the progress being made.”