Council launches drive to improve school standards

Classroom file pic.

North Yorkshire County Council, whose schools have below average Ofsted ratings, has launched a drive to improve standards as it emerged the national inspection body has not inspected some schools for 15 years.

The authority’s School Improvement Service is to prioritise support for schools deemed more at risk from the lack of Ofsted inspections and to push forward plans for its 235 local authority maintained schools.

The announcement came after the authority’s Young People’s Champion, Councillor Annabel Wilkinson highlighted concerns that many schools’ Ofsted inspections were out of date at a meeting of the council’s executive.

She also questioned how it was known if schools were successfully meeting children’s educational needs.

Ofsted says schools that were last inspected before the start of the pandemic may receive their first routine inspection up to six terms later than they would have previously. This is due to the suspension of routine inspection activity due to Covid-19.

A school judged good or outstanding at its most recent inspection will normally receive an Ofsted inspection about every four years, to confirm that the school remains good or outstanding.

However, between 2012 and November 2020, maintained schools and academies judged to be outstanding in their overall effectiveness at their most recent inspection were given exemptions from routine inspections.

The executive meeting heard the exempt schools were now once again subject to routine inspections, but education bosses were concerned standards may have dropped at some of the schools previously outstanding.

In the absence of Ofsted inspections, councillors were told the council’s School Improvement Service was offering support comprising of “advice and challenge” from educational advisors.

The meeting heard more than 100 of schools in the county were getting at least eight days of support which sees school leaders advised on what they need to prioritise.

The council’s education executive member for education Councillor Patrick Mulligan said while it was positive Ofsted inspections had restarted, he was concerned about how the county’s Ofsted inspection grades compared to other parts of the country.

The number of mainstream primary and secondary schools at the start of October in the county that had been judged good or outstanding was 82.3 per cent and 74.4 per cent, respectively. National rates for both primary and secondary schools are significantly higher, at 88 per cent and 76.9 per cent.

On October 2021, 81.3 per cent of schools in North Yorkshire were judged as good or outstanding, down from 83.8 per cent in September 2019.

Earlier this year, Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman said she wanted the body to “play its part in helping schools and colleges get back on track through inspections”.