The regional head of Ofsted has written to the county council to highlight a ‘significant and worrying decline in inspection outcomes’, following a series of school inspections last month.
During a focused week, sparked by concerns about the attainment of pupils on free school meals compared to elsewhere in the region and country, 17 schools were inspected.
One school was graded as outstanding, three as good and nine as requires improvement.
Four were placed in special measures, three of which previously judged as satisfactory and one school which was previously judged as good.
And in his letter to Northumberland County Council, published on the Ofsted website today, Nick Hudson, Ofsted’s regional director for the North East, Yorkshire & Humber, said: “These figures do not reflect well on the local authority’s capacity or influence to drive improvement. The results suggest that the support provided by the local authority in those schools placed in special measures has not been effective, and it seems that actions to tackle weaknesses have not been swift enough to arrest the decline in these schools.
“As you know, school inspection outcomes in Northumberland have traditionally shown higher numbers of good or better schools compared to regional and national figures. This good performance is particularly noted in the county’s first schools. Therefore, it is of great concern to me that in the period since September 2012, there has been a significant and worrying decline in inspection outcomes. This downward trend shows that in the last 14 months the proportion of good and better schools has declined, most notably in the middle and high school sectors. The proportion of schools in special measures is also much higher than that previously seen in the county.
“This downward trend of school performance is unacceptable against an overall national and regional improvement. Consequently, this means that children in Northumberland have less chance of going to a good school particularly in the middle and high school sectors. This result is unacceptable and will be of great concern to parents, carers and pupils alike.”
Coun Robert Arckless, policy board member for children’s services at the county council, said: “This focused inspection of 17 Northumberland schools by Ofsted has raised a number of issues that as an authority we are taking very seriously and working hard to resolve. We are looking at the reports and Ofsted’s recommendations to the council so that we can develop an improvement plan for education in the county.
“We will be working closely with the schools and increasing the levels of support so that together we can quickly improve the situation for the children and young people where it has been found to be inadequate.
“Although Ofsted found an improvement in some of the schools inspected and highlighted a range of strengths in Northumberland, we are now focused on making the tangible improvements required. We’re determined to get this right so that there is a good school for every Northumberland learner.
“A meeting between the local authority, Ofsted and all headteachers in Northumberland is already planned where we expect to agree a way forward.
“Since forming the new administration in the summer, the policy board has picked up on some of these concerns and we are taking swift action in the strategic leadership of education and developing a plan of action so improvements can be made.”