A Government minister wants to learn about Northumberland’s recent success in educating its youngest children, councillors heard.
Members of the county council’s family and children’s services committee received the Education and Skills Annual Report for 2017-18 at their meeting last Thursday (January 10).
Introducing the report, Dean Jackson, the authority’s director of education, said that five years on from the Ofsted inspection which criticised a number of schools as well as the council, ‘it would appear we have really made some good progress’.
The 2017-18 academic year featured ‘some of the best results the county has seen for many years’, he added.
The report’s introduction says: ‘Pupil attainment in both the Early Years Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1 was in the top 20 per cent nationally, attainment in Key Stage 2 was in line with the national average and attainment at GCSE was higher than the national average.’
The meeting heard that School Standards Minister Nick Gibb is going to be talking to Mr Jackson and executive director of children’s services, Cath McEvoy-Carr, to find out how the Early Years and KS1 results have been achieved.
The report continues: ‘Ofsted inspection outcomes for first, primary and middle schools have been strong this year with the vast majority of our schools improving to, or remaining, good or outstanding.
‘We do continue, however, to have an unacceptable number of secondary schools judged as inadequate over the last three years that have not made sufficient progress over that period to move out of the lowest Ofsted category.’
Mr Jackson does also note, however, that the council’s ‘track record in maintaining or improving a school’s effectiveness is frequently noted in Ofsted reports’.
Coun Wayne Daley, cabinet member for children’s services, said that many of the secondaries which are struggling have become academies and ‘there has been no uplift in their performance’.
“What there has been in the past year is a massive improvement in the relationship with the Regional Schools Commissioner (who is responsible for academies),” he went on.
Referring to the progress being made at Haydon Bridge, after the council stepped in when closure loomed , he added: “I want to do more, I want to do the same at Berwick, but this is about working in partnership.”
The annual report also acknowledges other challenges, many of which have previously been highlighted and discussed by the committee, such as meeting the needs of young people with special educational needs and the significant increase in exclusions.
‘It is clear that we have some of the best schools and headteachers nationally in Northumberland and that we have the potential to be one of the highest-performing local authorities in the country – but we are not there yet,’ concludes Mr Jackson.
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service