A county education chief has said that she will not tolerate mediocre and complacent headteachers as the council tries to improve standards in the wake of recent Ofsted inspections.
Northumberland County Council’s corporate director of children’s services, Daljit Lally, has sent a hard-hitting letter to school headteachers following a conference which was held last week.
The letter, which was an internal communication leaked to the Gazette, says that the county’s education system is seen as ‘inward looking, unwilling to embrace change, not working as a system to support each other, lacking leadership and happy to coast along bobbing above and below the line which signifies adequate’.
Ms Lally added: “My view is that I do not intend to run schools, I intend to hold you all to account for running yours.”
It comes after a number of schools in the county were inspected by Ofsted after concerns about lack of improvement.
In north Northumberland two of those schools – Alnwick’s Lindisfarne Middle and St Cuthbert’s First in Amble - were put in special measures, which means they are failing to give pupils an acceptable level of education.
The county council is now looking into ways of improving the education system.
Ms Lally’s letter states that there will be a review of the senior leadership team and of school improvement and support services at the council.
There is also set to be a county-wide pupil testing system will be introduced within this academic year and the council’s political leadership is considering their strategy in terms of structural and system change.
The letter added: “The council has chosen to include the director of children’s services as part of a wider role which will seek to integrate a range of services in order to ensure that prospects across the county improve and that we support all young people equally to have the best life chances irrespective of their family circumstances.”
In a comment to the Gazette Daljit Lally, corporate director of children’s services said: “As a council we’re looking at a range of issues to help support schools following the recent Ofsted inspections. As part of this process lots of internal work is going on to ensure that we provide a positive response and we will be advising schools of the arrangements in due course.”
THE LETTER IN FULL
I am writing in follow up to the Conference last Friday. I was very pleased to be able to meet you all and I appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedules to attend. I have attached to this letter the presentations/links.
I think the conference confirmed to me some of the views expressed by a range of external parties, including Ofsted, about Northumberland’s education system. Views which state that we are inward looking, unwilling to embrace change, not working as a system to support each other, lacking leadership and happy to coast along bobbing above and below the line which signifies adequate.
Given some of the views expressed at and following the conference I am not sure that some of the messages I expressed were heard. I therefore think I should reiterate them in writing. The Council has commenced a number of actions which will seek to support schools to achieve the improvement that is clearly necessary.
Internally to the Council these include a review of the senior leadership team and of school improvement and support services. Plans are already progressing to improve leadership and capacity in school support.
Alongside this there are a number of actions which will be taken in respect to schools.
- Mediocre, complacent leadership and outcomes which are poor or just adequate are no longer acceptable.
- Where schools take decisions or act in ways which are not in the interests of pupils or where schools do not start to improve or continue to “coast” we will take decisive actions. This may include an enhanced monitoring programme, targeted audits of areas of concern, letters/notices of improvement and/or removal of governing bodies and leadership teams.
- A county wide pupil testing system will be introduced within this academic year. I am keen to discuss the method of testing but the tests will be set by the Council, I will advise arrangements for administration of the testing in due course. I will seek to minimise the impact in terms of workload to schools but compliance with the testing regime will be non-negotiable.
- The Council’s political leadership are considering their strategy in terms of structural and system change and you will be advised of this and expected to comply with it.
The view from some of you that the DCS should be someone who has a background in education is an interesting one. My view is that I do not intend to run schools I intend to hold you all to account for running yours. Therefore I will ensure that I have within my team someone who can advise on teaching standards and good practice but I will expect you all to deliver to the high standards that I will set.
The Council has chosen to include the DCS as part of a wider role which will seek to integrate a range of services in order to ensure that prospects across the County improve and that we support all young people equally to have the best life chances irrespective of their family circumstances.
I would like to thank those of you who have contacted me with positive and useful solutions about how we can constructively work together. I will set out more details of the work but it will probably centre around a small number of key themes – e.g. contributions to structural solutions, countywide testing systems, revised school improvement teams, improving standards through evidencebased practice and school-to-school improvement support systems.
I am aware that you all have headship roles that are the “day job” so I really appreciate that people have volunteered to work with us on the countywide work. As I said at the conference once I have set out the work streams I will advise the detail and if you would like to be part of one or more of the groups taking our joint work forward please do not hesitate in contacting me.
I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate that, although we have a challenging agenda, we will succeed. I look forward to working with you. I would appreciate it if you would share this letter with your school teams and governing bodies.
Corporate Director of Children’s Services