The inspections of Cumbria secondary schools were conducted by Her Majesty’s Inspectors from 1 November to 20 December 2013. They were carried out because of concerns about the poor performance of a number of secondary schools in the county.
Of the 14 secondary schools inspected under section 5:
- none was judged outstanding
- three were judged good (one of these was already at this standard and two declined from being outstanding)
- five schools were judged requires improvement. In two of these schools, the quality of leadership was good but in the others it requires improvement
- one school has serious weaknesses and had declined from being good
- five schools, including the pupil referral unit, were placed into special measures
One 6th form college, inspected under section 5, was judged requires improvement, having declined from previously being a good standard.
Of the 3 schools and academies inspected under section 8, two were making adequate progress. In the other school, progress was insufficient.
Inspectors found GCSE results for children at the age of 16 have been significantly below the national average in the last 2 years - with the gap widening. Of particular concern is school performance in coastal and urban areas, and the low achievement of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
While inspectors found pockets of good teaching in almost all the schools, and signs of improving leadership and better governance in a small number, there were common weaknesses across many of the schools. This included poor achievement in maths and English for those from disadvantaged backgrounds, particularly boys; too little challenge in lessons for more-able students; and weak leadership of teaching and performance management of teachers.
Michael Cladingbowl HMI, Ofsted’s Regional Director for the North West said:
These inspection findings raise serious concerns about the quality of secondary education in Cumbria where too few secondary schools are good. And the picture is not improving.
There is too little evidence to suggest that the council is providing an effective and shared strategy to improve the quality of education across the county. This needs to be urgently addressed. The local authority needs to provide greater challenge and support and extend partnership working.
Ofsted will closely monitor the education provision in Cumbria and we will continue to work with schools and the local authority to ensure a higher proportion of young people are provided with a good standard of education.
The letter sent to Cumbria local authority has been published online.
- Andrew Johnson, Her Majesty’s Senior Inspector for North West will be available for interviews on Monday 10 February 2014. Please call Ofsted’s Press Office for interview requests.