The inspections are to find out why the city has a disproportionate number of under-performing primary schools – and whether the picture is improving.
Ofsted’s latest data from the 30 April 2013, found that almost 8,000 children are attending a primary school that, at its last inspection, was judged to be less than good. That’s 29 primary schools not providing the expected level of education to young children. This is much worse than the quality of primary schools across England and is an unacceptable situation.
Ten focused school inspections will be taking place in the authority as a result of Ofsted’s findings that the proportion of children attending a good or better school is currently well below the national average.
At the same time Ofsted will also conduct a telephone survey of a number of schools in Medway, which are not being inspected.
The exercise marks 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 compared to areas with a similar demographic.
Secondary schools appear to perform better in Medway, with 12 of the 15 that Ofsted inspected since September 2012 being found to be good or better. This is reflected in GCSE results, where 61% young people achieved 5 good GCSEs including English and maths in 2012. However, the picture is much less positive for those eligible for free school meals.
Matthew Coffey, Regional Director for the South East said:
Children only get one chance of an education. As Regional Director for the South East, I want to tackle the variations highlighted in our Annual Report, and more recently in HMCI’s Unseen children report, to drive improvement in all schools in this region.
It cannot be right that disadvantaged children are being failed by the education system. Only 34% of children eligible for free school meals in Medway achieved 5 good GCSEs including English and maths in 2012. We must all work to change this. All parents should have the same chance of sending their children to a good or better school but in Medway the chance of being able to do so is much lower than in other parts of the country, especially when considering primary school provision.
That is why today and over the next few days, my inspectors will be visiting a number of schools in Medway to find out whether performance is improving. We will be paying particular attention to the effectiveness and impact of the support these schools are receiving from the local authority.
These inspections, which were scheduled to take place this academic year but are being brought forward, will include all types of schools - although the majority will be primary schools.
The inspections and telephone surveys will give a powerful snapshot of not only how well these particular schools are doing in Medway but also a strong indication of the quality of external support and direction given to the schools by the local authority.
The findings and any recommendations will be shared with the local authority as well as schools, parents and the wider public. If Ofsted finds that the local authority is proactive in addressing key issues and that standards in schools are improving, this will be made clear in the letter setting out the principal findings to the 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 may consider carrying out an inspection of the authority’s school improvement function under the new framework.
The local authority school improvement framework, which took effect this month, 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 since the data was collected for the last Annual Report.