Press release

Middlesbrough's support for school improvement is 'ineffective'

A third of pupils overall, and over half of secondary-aged children, attend a school in Middlesbrough that is less than good, says Ofsted.

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Ofsted carried out an inspection of Middlesbrough council’s arrangements for school improvement between 27 and 31 January this year. This was in response to concerns about the achievement and progress of pupils in primary and secondary schools and the quality of education for young in people in training aged 16 to 18.

In Middlesbrough, attainment at each key stage remains well below national averages and progress slows as pupils get older. The proportion of school leavers not in education, employment or training is almost twice the national average, and is the second worst in the Ofsted region of the North East, Yorkshire and Humber.

Inspectors found that the local authority does not know the schools in the area well and has not established effective partnerships with schools. It has failed to balance schools’ greater autonomy with maintaining an oversight on their performance.

The leadership from elected members is weak and they are not well placed to hold officers and schools to account or to champion young people’s rights to a high quality education.

While the authority has been working more closely with a range of agencies to tackle social, economic and educational barriers to success, this was found not to have had significant impact on the performance of pupils.

Nick Hudson, Ofsted’s Regional Director for the North East, Yorkshire and Humber said:

The poor performance of the authority to ensure all young people receive a good quality education is very concerning. Urgent action must be taken so that pupils are given the opportunities they need to succeed and to improve their life chances.

Ofsted’s role does not end here; we will continue to work with the council and local schools to help them improve and we will re-inspect the council in the next nine to 12 months to make sure actions have been taken to improve the quality of education for young people.

Ofsted recommends Middlesbrough council should take swift action including to:

  • establish closer relationships between primary and secondary schools in order to improve the transition between children moving from primary to secondary school, to stop the decline in pupils’ performance, and raise attainment during secondary school education
  • ensure school improvement services make rigorous use of data and information so schools in most need are provided with sufficient support and challenge
  • build on emerging partnerships between schools, colleges and the business community by producing a coherent strategy to increase the numbers of school leavers in education, employment or training
  • ensure elected members have a clear understanding of the strengths and areas for improvement in education, so that they can hold schools and school improvement services fully to account and provide strong leadership.

Local authorities inspected under the local authority school improvement framework are 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.

The report is on Middlesbrough’s page on Ofsted’s reports website.

Notes to editors

  1. Nick Hudson, Ofsted’s Regional Director for the North East, Yorkshire and Humber will be available for interviews on Wednesday 12 March 2014. Please call Ofsted’s Press Office for interview requests.

  2. The framework for the inspection of local authority arrangements for supporting school improvement.

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.

Inspections under the new local authority school improvement framework will not be universal and Ofsted will inspect only where there are concerns about performance or where requested to do so by the Secretary of State. Local authorities will receive up to five days’ notice of an inspection.

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Published 12 March 2014