Ofsted warns on poor education standards in East Midlands

7 Jun 16

School standards in the East Midlands are the lowest in England across a range of indicators and local politicians must tackle the culture of low expectations, chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has said.

The Ofsted chief highlighted the “distinctly second division” provision across the region as East Midlands regional director Chris Russell published an open letter to all those responsible for education in Northamptonshire. In the letter, Russell sets out his deep concerns about the low standards of achievement across the county.

Wilshaw blamed a culture of complacency and a lack of clear accountability for the poor educational performance across the region and all educational phases.

Problems are mirrored in a number of neighbouring towns and cities, he said, and the East Midlands is currently the joint lowest performing Ofsted region in terms of inspection outcomes, with almost one in three secondary schools judged less than good at their last inspection.

In addition, the region had the worst GCSE results in England in 2015, with nearly 46% of pupils failing to achieve the benchmark five or more A* to C grades including English and maths. Almost three-quarters (73%) of pupils in the region eligible for free school meals failed to achieve this benchmark.

Children in care also performed worse in the East Midlands than in any other region.

Pupils in some of the region’s major urban areas and shire counties fare particularly badly, according to Wilshaw. Leicester is the poorest performing local authority in the country for pupil outcomes at the end of the Early Years Foundation Stage, while Nottingham is England’s poorest performer in the phonics screening check at key stage 1.

Derby and Nottingham were among the 10 lowest ranking local authority areas nationally for GSCE examinations – only 47.6% and 42.4% of pupils respectively achieved the benchmark five or more A* to C grades including English and maths in 2015.

These statistics should serve as a wake-up call, the Ofsted chief said. “The poor quality of education in many parts of the East Midlands often passes under the radar as attention is focused on underperformance in the bigger cities of the North and West Midlands, like Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham,” he stated.

“However, in many ways, the problems in this region symbolise more than anywhere else the growing educational divide between the South and the rest of England that I highlighted in my last annual report.”

The region also had very few high performing multi-academy trusts, while support and challenge to schools from local authorities has not led to rapid enough improvement.

The collective failure by education and political leaders to tackle mediocre provision and a culture of low expectations must end, he added.

“As chief inspector, I am calling on local politicians across the region to do significantly more to challenge and support their local schools, regardless of whether they are academies or under local authority control.

“Our future prosperity as a nation depends on us delivering a better quality of education to all our children, wherever they live. As things stand, too many schools in the East Midlands are failing to equip young people with the knowledge and skills the country needs to keep pace with its international competitors.”

The Association of School and College Leaders said Ofsted was making a “sweeping generalisation; and risked damaging morale of staff, pupils and parents.

ASCL interim general secretary Malcolm Trobe said: “The majority of schools in the East Midlands are judged by Ofsted to be outstanding or good, just as they are across England. Those schools which are struggling are in this position for a variety of reasons and it is important to understand these specific factors in order to address them.”

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