Press release

Urgent action needed to tackle underperforming schools in Reading

Ofsted focused inspection findings show sharp rise in schools judged to be inadequate since October 2013.

Too many schools in Reading are inadequate and the number is growing, Ofsted has found.

Following the focused inspection of 10 of the 56 schools in Reading in October 2014, Ofsted has written to the council today (10 February) to advise it of the findings.

The focused inspection took place between 9 and 23 October and included six primary schools, two special schools and two nursery schools. The schools were all due for inspection by the end of the 2014/15 academic year and selected to encompass a range of schools, with an emphasis on primary schools due to their poor performance.

Of the 10 schools inspected, only one school had improved since its last inspection. Three schools had declined. Two of these had declined so significantly that they now require special measures.

Sir Robin Bosher, Ofsted Director for South East, said:

It concerns me that there has been a sharp rise in the number of schools judged to be inadequate in Reading since October 2013. There are over a quarter of primary-aged children not receiving a good standard of education. This means more than 3,500 primary school children are attending a school that is not good enough.

I am also particularly worried that the council has failed to take action to prevent schools deteriorating to the point where they now require special measures.

Inspectors’ evidence collated during the inspections indicates that the authority has not provided sufficient challenge or support to schools to enable them to improve quickly enough.

As a result I am proposing to increase the amount of time Her Majesty’s Inspectors have to support and challenge the council to make the necessary improvements.

Concerns arising from the focused inspection include:

  • too many schools are inadequate and this number is growing
  • there is too much variability in the quality of support that schools receive from local authority officers
  • schools are not improving at a sufficiently rapid rate
  • not enough schools are good or outstanding and too many pupils attend schools that do not provide at least a good standard of education
  • the local authority is not able to demonstrate enough of an impact on improving the effectiveness of schools and academies

Strengths identified during the focused inspection:

  • Reading local authority knows the majority of its schools well. The level of support is often proportionate to need; schools that require improvement, have serious weaknesses or are subject to special measures receive more support
  • the wider support given to schools through a range of services is well-regarded by most schools
  • schools are very positive about the support provided by the English adviser, particularly in supporting improvements in phonics and writing

Notes to editors

  1. The letter for Reading Borough Council can be found online.
  2. Focused inspections are 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. On 17 January 2013, Ofsted announced the first wave of focused school inspections across local authority areas, where children are being denied the standard of education they deserve. The press release is available on the Ofsted website.
  3. Local authority areas are selected for the focused school inspection programme on the basis of the relative proportion of children attending good or better primary schools, as well as any relevant inspection evidence gathered. These are standard section 5 inspections, which were scheduled to take place this academic year and include all types of schools – although the majority will be primary schools.
  4. During the inspections, Ofsted also gathered information on the use, quality and impact of local authority support for school improvement by asking additional key questions of headteachers and governors.
  5. The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects to achieve excellence in the care of children and young people, and in education and skills for learners of all ages. It regulates and inspects childcare and children’s social care, and inspects the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), schools, colleges, initial teacher training, work-based learning and skills training, adult and community learning, and education and training in prisons and other secure establishments. It assesses council children’s services, and inspects services for looked after children, safeguarding and child protection.
  6. Media can contact the Ofsted Press Office through 03000 130 415 or via Ofsted’s enquiry line 0300 123 1231 between 8.30am to 6.00pm from Monday to Friday. Out of these hours, during evenings and weekends, the duty press officer can be reached on 07919 057 359.