The inspections aim to find out why the city has a disproportionate number of under-performing schools – and whether the picture is improving.
Portsmouth is the second in a wave of focused school inspections taking place during the current term in local authority areas where the proportion of children attending a good or outstanding school is currently well below the national average.
The most recent published data shows that only 34% of secondary school children in Portsmouth attend a good or better school. For primary school children, the figure is 53%.
This week’s exercise is part of a concerted programme of action by Ofsted to establish why children in some parts of the country have a much lower chance of attending a good or better school than their peers in other similar areas. It follows the publication of Ofsted’s Annual Report at the end of November, which found marked and unacceptable variations in school performance between local authority areas with similar demographics and levels of deprivation.
Matthew Coffey, Ofsted Regional Director for the South East, said:
‘Every parent wants their child to go to a good or better school. However, in Portsmouth barely a third of secondary school age children and just over half of primary school children were doing so at the time of the last Annual Report.
“It cannot be right that local authority areas with similar demographics - such as the size of the population and the levels of deprivation - have such varying levels of provision in schools.
‘That is why we are carrying out focused school inspections across under-performing areas, where we will be looking not just at the performance of the individual schools but also the support they are receiving from their local authority. We will be seeking to determine whether councils are really fulfilling their statutory duties to promote high standards and fair access to educational opportunity.’
The school inspections taking place over the next five days were scheduled to take place this academic year but are being brought forward.
At the same time, Ofsted will conduct a separate telephone survey of a number of Portsmouth’s schools, which are not being inspected.
Together this will give a powerful snapshot of not only how well schools are doing in Portsmouth since the Annual Report data was collected, but also a strong indication of the quality of external support and direction given to the schools by the local authority.
Evidence gathered from this exercise will be drawn together by inspectors for HM Chief Inspector and the South East Regional Director. The findings and any recommendations will then be shared with the local authority as well as schools, parents and the wider local public.
Earlier this month, Ofsted launched a consultation on a new framework to inspect the school improvement service being provided by underperforming local authorities.
If inspectors find during the current wave of focused inspections that a local authority is being proactive in addressing key issues and that standards in schools are improving, this will be made clear in a letter setting out the principal findings to that local authority.
However, if there is evidence that the local authority is not fulfilling its statutory duty to promote high standards and fair access to educational opportunity, Ofsted will move to carry out an inspection of that authority’s school improvement function under the new framework that is due to come into effect from May.
Ofsted will also be able 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 since the data was collected for the last Annual Report.
Data used is that which was published in the Annual Report up to 31 August 2012.
HM Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, announced a series of measures to tackle variations in school performance across different local authority areas on 17 January. These included:
- a series of targeted school inspections within a condensed one-week period in areas where the proportion of children attending a good or better school is currently well below the national average for England
- a new framework for Ofsted to inspect the school improvement service being provided by under-performing local authorities
- a good practice survey, now underway by Ofsted, to share and showcase some of the best examples of local authority support and challenge for schools across the country
- Matthew Coffey, Regional Director for the South East, will be available for interviews in Portsmouth in the early afternoon of Tuesday 26 February. Please call Ofsted’s Press Office for interview requests.