Press release

Suffolk Council's support for school improvement is ineffective

Life chances for young Suffolk people are being damaged by council failure to challenge and support schools, according to an Ofsted letter.

Ofsted had been concerned that pupils in Suffolk’s primary and secondary schools are performing well below national averages. The letter is the result of an inspection of the way the local authority is working to improve education in the county’s schools.

It finds that:

  • pupil performance at Key Stages 2 and 4 in Suffolk is well below the national average
  • the council’s strategy to challenge and support schools is weak – this has left some schools languishing in mediocrity
  • officials have been tardy in addressing poor leadership in council-run schools.
  • they have not communicated well with school leaders, many of whom are unaware of the local authority’s role in realising rapid improvement
  • there needs to be better and more consistent use of information by local authority staff to intervene quickly when schools are in trouble

More positively, Ofsted did find that local councillors and senior local authority officials are ambitious and determined to bring about improvements in Suffolk schools. But not enough has been done to make the improvements that are needed.

Sean Harford, Ofsted Regional Director for the East of England, said:

Too few pupils in Suffolk attend a good or outstanding school, and far too many attend inadequate schools. That is unacceptable.

It is disappointing to find that Suffolk County Council has been ineffective in the way it supports schools. The local authority has not tackled weaknesses in schools quickly enough. That just isn’t good enough when the prospects for the young people of the county are at stake.

In the summer of 2012 the council launched its “Raising the Bar” policy as it recognised the need to raise education achievement. But there have been no significant improvements in pupils’ attainment since that time and there is still no clear strategy for how the local authority will make improvements.

We will keep working with the council and Suffolk schools so that more get to good or better.

To help tackle the problem of low pupil attainment in Suffolk, Ofsted recommends that:

  • Suffolk County Council must urgently finalise, communicate and implement its plans to improve school quality
  • it improves the quality of communications between the local authority and school leaders.
  • the local authority must rapidly identify and resolve emerging problems in schools, particularly in relation to leadership
  • senior officers need to have better ways of checking the quality of the work of the Learning and Improvement Service

Now that Suffolk County Council’s education support has been found to be ineffective, Ofsted will monitor developments and re-inspect within a year.

The report is on Suffolk’s page on the Ofsted reports website.

  1. Ofsted undertook this inspection between 20 and 24 January 2014.
  2. The outcome letter is on the Ofsted website.
  3. Key Stage 2 refers to when children are aged between seven and 11; and Key Stage 4 refers to when pupils are aged between 14 and 16.

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