Ofsted deliver “mixed” report after inspection blitz in Thurrock

AN OFSTED report into the recent inspection of seven Thurrock schools has delivered a mixed message to the council.

Of the seven schools inspected as part of the focused inspection activity: three were judged to be ‘good’

1. Ockendon Academy: Declined from Outstanding
2. Gateway Free School: First time inspection
3. Arthur Bugler: Up from Requires Improvement

Four were judged to require improvement, three of which were previously graded as ‘satisfactory’ and one school declined from ‘good’.

The four primary schools were: Stifford Clays, Holy Cross, East Tilbury and Somers Heath.

The report states:

It is encouraging that two schools have improved since their last inspection, to achieve a good inspection outcome. However, it is disappointing that two other schools have declined since their previous inspections and that three schools continue to provide an education for their pupils that is not yet good enough.

On reviewing the inspection reports from the focused period, it is clear that the inspection evidence affords examples of improving intervention and support from the local authority over the last year. It is unfortunate, however, that the support and challenge from the local authority was not more effective in improving the previously ‘satisfactory’ schools which still require improvement, or indeed in halting the decline of the school that was previously judged to be ‘good’.

Strengths

1. Most headteachers and governing bodies are more optimistic about local authority leadership than in the past because they judge you and your senior colleagues to be effective.

2. Data on school achievement, its evaluation and the reports received by schools, are perceived to be of a high quality. A number of headteachers describe this aspect of local authority support as excellent.

3. Training for governors on judging pupils’ achievement, safeguarding and financial management is considered to be effective.

4. Strategies for the recruitment of good senior leaders are seen to be effective and are welcomed by governing bodies.

5. School leaders feel that the Progress Board Meetings, initiated last September, are challenging schools more effectively to improve achievement.

6. The engagement of Thurrock Improvement Consultants with grade 3 schools is generally seen as positive. The level of challenge and support these consultants offer schools is recognised to have improved over the last year and is now considered to be better tailored to meet the schools’ needs.

7. The local authority is generally successful in maintaining productive partnerships with academies and free schools.

8. The induction and support for newly qualified teachers is considered to be effective.

Weaknesses

1. Past weaknesses in the local authority’s strategic direction, vision, communication and support remain a cause of dissatisfaction for some schools.

2. Schools identified the following remaining weaknesses in communication.

a. A perceived lack of transparency when the local authority decides on which tier (out of a four point scale) to place a school when determining the level of support to provide.

b. Opportunities for school support from the local authority are missed by some headteachers because they do not get to hear about them.

c.  Personnel changes in the local authority have left schools unsure about who to contact when they need help.

3. Remaining weaknesses in strategic direction and vision

The local authority’s strategy for linking good schools with those that require support is seen as ad hoc by some headteachers.

Headteachers of good schools reported that they often make their own arrangements for school-to-school support

– Some governing bodies and headteachers perceive that the local authority has a reactive approach to school improvement

– The local authority is seen by some headteachers to have been too slow to act on the recommendations of last year’s review of its functions
– Headteachers of good schools do not believe that they are consulted sufficiently about the local authority’s vision for the future.

4. Training varies in quality because some is delivered by personnel who are not judged to be effective by headteachers and governors.

Some good schools do not think they are challenged sufficiently. While these schools agree that the local authority has a good grasp of achievement through its analysis of performance data, they believe the authority knows little about the quality of teaching. One headteacher perceived this to be a reason why schools can decline from being good.

Summary

The inspections undertaken in the focused period indicate that there is still some way to go before Thurrock local authority is fully effective and consistent in supporting and challenging schools that are not yet good to improve quickly.

In the past, the local authority has not been successful at driving up standards in the quality of education in primary schools, which is why too few schools are currently good or outstanding.

School leaders are now generally optimistic about the leadership of the local authority and consider that the support and challenge they receive has improved over the last year. School leaders would welcome more involvement in shaping the strategic direction of the local authority’s school improvement arrangements and they would like this to happen swiftly.

Headteachers perceive that a more systematic and purposeful approach by the local authority to developing school-to-school support is critical to help schools that require improvement to get to good more quickly.

 

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