The verdicts follow five-day inspections of local authority arrangements for school improvement carried out last month in Norfolk and the Isle of Wight.
These local authorities were chosen for assessment under a new inspection framework amid concerns about the poor quality of education being offered by too many schools in the two areas.
Ofsted found that in Norfolk, the local authority had taken too long to challenge weaker schools – resulting in a ‘legacy of underachievement’. The council had often been slow to use its formal powers of intervention and had only recently begun to formally and robustly challenge its underperforming schools.
On the Isle of Wight, inspectors criticised the poor corporate and strategic leadership as well as an un-coordinated approach to school improvement that had resulted in a large proportion of ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’ schools.
Inspectors found that ‘a lack of rigour in monitoring and challenge, mostly due to poor use of performance data, means that the local authority neither knows the schools well nor intervenes early enough’. In addition, senior leaders in the best schools were not being commissioned to help weaker schools improve while evaluation of the use of specialist teachers and consultants was ‘weak’.
Ofsted has identified a number of key areas for improvement for both Norfolk and the Isle of Wight to ensure pupils in these two parts of the country have the chance to attend a good or better school.
Commenting on the outcome of the two inspections, HM Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, said:
‘Today’s findings should serve as a wake-up call for those local authorities across England that are failing to get a grip on school improvement.
‘Norfolk County Council has for far too long presided over a mediocre and complacent school system that has denied tens of thousands of children the chance of a decent education.
‘The spiral of decline in school standards on the Isle of Wight has been more rapid but no less harmful to the prospects of children who live there. Two thirds of all secondary schools on the island are now judged inadequate. That is a shocking statistic and one that demands urgent action.
‘If councils want to demonstrate they still have a relevant and meaningful role to play within the new educational landscape, they must act as dynamic and proactive agents for improvement.
‘I am determined to continue this inspection programme into the next academic year and beyond to ensure local authorities with significant numbers of underperforming schools in their area held to account.’