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Ofsted criticises Norfolk and Isle of Wight over school support systems

26/07/2013 Joanna
Ofsted has accused Norfolk County Council and Isle of Wight Council of providing inadequate support to staff in education jobs in raising standards in local schools.

Last month, these two local authorities became the first in England to be inspected in relation to their arrangements for supporting school improvement, after the education watchdog's visits to schools under their jurisdiction revealed grounds for concern.

The proportion of schools in Norfolk rated as good or better is one of the lowest in the country and it is also in the bottom five local authority areas for the proportion of schools that are in need of improvement or inadequate.

The findings of Ofsted's inspection of Norfolk County Council have now indicated that this is partly due to the local authority taking too long to use its powers of intervention and only recently beginning to formally and robustly challenge its weaker schools.

On the Isle of Wight, meanwhile, one in three children attend a school appraised as less than good and two thirds of secondary schools have also been deemed inadequate.

Again, the watchdog's inspectors have found the roots of this problem to lie in the local council, which they said possessed poor corporate and strategic leadership and an uncoordinated approach to school improvement.

In particular, they felt the local authority made poor use of performance data, resulting in it failing to effectively monitor and challenge schools, while senior leaders in the island's best schools were not being commissioned to help its weaker ones make progress.

Ofsted's chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw commented: "If councils want to demonstrate they still have a relevant and meaningful role to play within the new educational landscape, they must act as dynamic and proactive agents for improvement.

"I am determined to continue this inspection programme into the next academic year and beyond to ensure local authorities with significant numbers of underperforming schools in their area are held to account."

Responding to the watchdog's assessment, Norfolk County Council pledged to strengthen its strategy for school improvement and highlighted steps it is already taking to achieve this.

Isle of Wight Council also accepted the need to raise educational standards on the island, adding that it was formulating a plan of action to this end with support from Hampshire County Council.

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