Barking and Dagenham council is making good progress in supporting school improvement but there is still more to be done, Ofsted inspectors have found.
Ofsted has written to the council today (19 February), setting out the findings of an inspection into its arrangements for school improvement. The inspection was carried out in November 2014 in response to concerns that, while the council was performing in line with national averages, it was still not doing as well as many other London boroughs.
Inspectors visited the council in November and found that its work to support school improvement was leading to genuine, sustained improvement - although there remained some way to go to close the gap in performance between Barking and Dagenham and other London boroughs.
The inspection found strong leadership in the council. Senior officers and councillors provided clear direction and schools that inspectors spoke to appreciated their involvement in school communities.
Inspectors also found that school-to-school support was used and commissioned effectively. School networks were working well where they were mature, and were developing well in other areas of the council. Strategic education plans were being reviewed and evaluated thoroughly, to ensure that they helped drive up standards and to inform targets and priorities.
Barking and Dagenham is in the bottom 20 local authorities in England for primary school inspection outcomes. Over 7,000 primary school children and over 2,000 secondary school children in the borough currently attend a school that is not judged as good or better. However, since September 2013, the numbers of primary and secondary schools in Barking and Dagenham being judged good or better by Ofsted has outpaced the national rate of improvement.
Those schools causing concern were kept under tight scrutiny, which means that numbers have reduced incrementally over the last three years. All such schools monitored by Ofsted reported that the support they received from the council was good.
Debbie Jones, Ofsted’s regional director for London, said:
Over the years, Barking and Dagenham has persistently lagged behind other London boroughs in attainment and inspection outcomes. However, we are very pleased to see that the local authority is working well to challenge and support schools in the area and to buck this trend.
Despite the area facing significant challenges, these are not being allowed to become a barrier to educational achievement. The authority has a clear and ambitious vision to improve education for all and drive up academic standards, which it is going some way to achieve.
Barking and Dagenham needs to consolidate and speed up these significant improvements, to ensure that children are given the same opportunities to attend a good or outstanding school as their counterparts in other London boroughs.
Ofsted recommends further work to build on improvements, including:
quicker deployment of formal intervention powers, such as warning notices, where appropriate
more forensic and consistent scrutiny of performance data, so that underperformance can be accurately identified, challenged and halted
greater challenge to schools with a significant budget surplus, to ensure that resources reach pupils and efforts to support school improvement are maximised
a more ambitious target for school improvement. The proportion of good and outstanding schools in the Borough, whilst accelerating, remains short of the national average
Notes to editors
- The letter to Barking and Dagenham Council can be found online.
- The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects to achieve excellence in the care of children and young people, and in education and skills for learners of all ages. It regulates and inspects childcare and children’s social care, and inspects the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), schools, colleges, initial teacher training, work-based learning and skills training, adult and community learning, and education and training in prisons and other secure establishments. It assesses council children’s services, and inspects services for looked after children, safeguarding and child protection.