Suffolk: Educational improvement ‘not fast enough’ according to Ofsted director

Ofsted regional director for the East of England Sean Harford. Photo: Steve Adams

Ofsted regional director for the East of England Sean Harford. Photo: Steve Adams

The Director for Ofsted in the East of England has today said that Suffolk County Council’s strategy for better education in the county hasn’t resulted in fast enough improvement.

Sean Harford sent a damning letter to the County Council’s education chiefs yesterday in which he branded the number of inadequate schools as “unacceptable”.

The criticism comes after a focused inspection of 33 schools in Suffolk of which six were judged to be inadequate, 12 to require improvement, 13 as good and only two as outstanding.

Today Mr Harford said that while there had been some improvement, the “pace of improvement” in Suffolk schools was behind the rest of the region, while the region was behind the rest of the country.

“The county has set out its strategy. Yes there’s improvement but that improvement isn’t quick enough. What we want to see is the children getting better education, to do that you’ve got to have higher levels of engagement,” said Mr Harford.

“The strategies put in place by the council are being recognised by the schools. The issue is the engagement of the schools and there is some scepticism of the focus of the council and if they are focusing on the right things and the key things, which are teaching and learning.

“Too many children are being taught in schools that aren’t good enough and the schools that aren’t yet good will not have good or better teaching overall.”

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Emphasising the County Council’s statutory duty to ensure fair access to high levels of education in the area, Mr Harford said: “We would want to make sure that they challenge the school to make it better, to bring their statutory duty to bear in that landscape.”

He added that other council areas with similar challenges were doing very well. “The link that Suffolk has forged with Hackney is because Hackney has done well,” he said.

Yesterday Ms Chambers, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for education, skills and young people, said: “Improving educational attainment in Suffolk is the county council’s top priority.

“We welcome Ofsted inspecting Suffolk schools. We’re pleased that work we and schools are doing has been recognised. We take very seriously the areas of improvement that have been identified and will act on this advice.

“The latest Key Stage 2 and GCSE results show that Suffolk is making progress in the right direction. This work will most certainly continue.”

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