Norfolk: Ofsted Finds County Council 'Ineffective'

School inspectors, Ofsted, have called Norfolk County Council 'ineffective' at supporting schools

In one of the first inspections of its kind, officers went into the council to examine their part in challenging and supporting schools to improve.

Norfolk County Council has today pledged to strengthen its strategy to support school improvement and Gordon Boyd, Assistant Director of Children’s Services at Norfolk County Council, said: “We have too many schools in Norfolk that are not good enough or have not been quick enough to improve. Ofsted’s judgement, therefore, comes as no surprise and highlights our clear role in ensuring that schools are supported and challenged in their own improvement."

Inspectors said that the council’s new strategy for supporting school improvement, A Good School for Every Norfolk Learner, was a “clear statement of intent to challenge and support schools to improve.” However, at the time of the inspection the strategy had not yet made a strong enough impact and inspectors found it lacked clear targets for the county’s schools.

Mr Boyd added: “In the past we have been too slow to act in schools that are causing concern. However, our new strategy focuses on much earlier intervention and is beginning to show positive signs of progress – the proportion of good and outstanding schools in the county is increasing and the role of the council in supporting school improvement has been found by Ofsted to be effective in the vast majority of recent school inspections.

“Despite this we realise that there is a long way to go. Norfolk is behind the national average at both GCSE and Key Stage 2 and we need to challenge schools more robustly if they are not providing the good education their pupils deserve.”

Ofsted said that the impact of local authority intervention was improving and more schools had become receptive to challenge and support. However, a significant minority of schools remained ambivalent or resistant to partnership working.and inspectors said this was “slowing the pace of improvement.”

Mick Castle, Cabinet Member for Schools at Norfolk County Council added: “The County Council has previously seen cuts in this area and that is something we are keen to address. Improving services to children and young people in Norfolk is an absolute priority for this administration and that is why we recognise that the outcome of this inspection is simply not good enough.

“We have just appointed Sheila Lock to lead Children’s Services in the interim and we know she has a strong track record of bringing about improvements in both education and social care. We are confident that she will provide further support to our strategy to support school improvement and ensure we, and the council’s schools, are making the rapid progress that is necessary.”

Norfolk County Council adopted its new strategy for support for school improvement in September 2012. It includes closer monitoring of standards in all schools, including academies and free schools. The strategy also outlines tougher intervention in schools that are showing no sign of improvement.

A key part of the strategy, Norfolk to Good and Great, targets schools that are judged as requiring improvement or satisfactory, giving them the support of stronger schools to help move them to good or outstanding.

Those that do not improve will be treated by the council as schools of concern and will be subject to tougher intervention.

The target is for 75% of primary schools and 65% of secondary schools to be good or outstanding by December 2014.

Since the introduction of the strategy the number of good or outstanding schools in Norfolk has increased and the County Council’s support for schools has been found to be effective in 85% of schools inspected.

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