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Ofsted investigates Northumberland attainment gap

18/10/2013 Joanna
Ofsted is undertaking a series of school inspections in Northumberland to establish how staff in education jobs there can raise attainment levels among poorer pupils.

Northumberland is a relatively affluent county, with the proportion of children eligible for free school meals (FSM) lower than both the north-east and England as a whole.

Yet in 2012, only 61 cent of children on FSM there attained level four in English and maths at key stage two, compared to a regional and national average of 66 per cent, and 82 per cent of their non-FSM peers in Northumberland.

At GCSE level, only 26 per cent of Northumberland's pupils on FSM managed grades of C or above in at least five subjects including English and maths, whereas the average for the north-east was 33 per cent and England 66 per cent, while 62 per cent of non-FSM pupils in the county achieved this standard.

Moreover, while 92 per cent of children in the county go to a good primary school, 37 per cent of its secondary schools - accommodating 8,000 pupils between them - were rated as less than good at their last inspection.

It is for these reasons that the education watchdog is this week carrying out 17 focused school inspections within the authority, as well as an equal number of telephone surveys of other schools.

As well as identifying how these individual institutions are performing, these coordinated inspections will also shed light on the calibre of external support and direction they receive from the local authority.

Nick Hudson, Ofsted's regional director for the north-east and Yorkshire and Humber, commented: "The proportion of children on free school meals in the county is relatively low and therefore it is even more of a worry that there is a significant attainment gap for these children compared to their peers within the authority, in the north-east region, and nationally."

If there is evidence Northumberland County Council is not fulfilling its duty to promote high standards and fair access to educational opportunity, the watchdog can subsequently inspect the authority's school improvement functions.

The poor educational performance of children from deprived backgrounds in Northumberland echoes the wider findings of an Ofsted report published earlier this year indicating schools in relatively well off parts of England are not doing enough to raise attainment among poorer pupils.

Posted by Tim ColmanADNFCR-2164-ID-801650989-ADNFCR
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