The inspection was carried out because of concerns about low outcomes for young people in the borough.
In Blackpool, a young person’s chance of attending a good school decreases considerably at the age of 11. Attainment at the end of secondary school has been significantly lower than that found nationally for the last three years and the proportion of students securing five or more good GCSE grades, including English and maths, declined in 2013.
Ofsted has found the local authority has focused too much on support and failed to provide sufficient challenge for secondary schools that do not offer pupils a good or better education. This has led to underachievement, where pupils’ progress and attainment remain well below regional and national averages.
While Blackpool council has ambition to raise aspirations for children in the borough, its school improvement strategy lacks robust objectives, targets and indicators to which school leaders can subscribe and be held to account for.
Many school leaders are positive about the work of the council. However, they also report that the relationship between Blackpool’s secondary schools and the local authority has been too comfortable at the expense of objective challenge.
Michael Cladingbowl HMI, Ofsted’s Regional Director for the North West said:
‘The situation for the borough’s secondary schools is dire. Urgent attention and swift action must be taken if pupils’ outcomes are to improve. Such is the concern that along with close monitoring of the council’s support work for schools, inspectors will re-inspect Blackpool Council in the next nine to 12 months to see if progress has been made.
‘We will not walk away. We will challenge and support schools and the local authority to ensure all children receive a good education in Blackpool.’
Local authorities inspected under the local authority school improvement framework will be required to respond with a written statement setting out what action it proposes to take in light of the report of inspectors’ findings and setting out a timetable for those actions. The local authority must publish the letter report and action plan.
Where there is evidence that the local authority is not exercising its functions effectively, or does not have adequate capacity to support schools and other providers to improve, the inspection findings will be reported this to the Secretary of State and Ofsted may arrange for a further inspection.
Notes to editors
Vincent Ashworth, Her Majesty’s Senior Inspector for North West will be available for interviews on Thursday 16 January 2014. Please call Ofsted’s Press Office for interview requests.
The local authority school improvement framework, which took effect in June 2013, enables Ofsted for the first time to inspect the school improvement functions of any local authority where there are concerns that the statutory duty to improve school standards is not being met. This may include areas where the performance of schools has declined.
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