Lack of focus on school budget cuts from Ofsted chief, say head teachers

4 Dec 18

Head teachers have criticised Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman for failing to acknowledge the impact of budget cuts on schools.

Spielman today published the watchdog’s annual report, providing an extensive overview of the state of education and children’s services in England.

While the quality of education and care was good and improving, Spielman highlighted some problems, including children who still lag behind, cuts to early intervention and prevention and regional variation.

However, the Association of School and College Leaders said she should have mentioned school funding in her speech.

“We wish she would acknowledge that the totally inadequate level of funding in schools and local support services is undermining efforts to improve [some young people’s] life chances,” said Stephen Rollett, curriculum and inspections specialist at the ASCL.

In her remarks, the chief inspector noted that school performance in urban areas had improved markedly, other areas, including coastal towns and white working class communities, were lagging behind.

Regional variation did not follow expected patterns, she added.

“Areas such as Newham and Newcastle, that educate high proportions of disadvantaged children, excel in terms of their performance… At the same time, more leafy areas like West Berkshire lag behind.”

On children’s social care, Spielman said her inspectors’ most important finding was the rising number of local authorities judged to be good or outstanding in this area. Around 60% of councils inspected managed to improve their grading despite grappling with “some of the most significant budget reductions across the whole public sector”.

“Our concern is that, where savings have been found – mostly in preventative and youth services – they are a false economy, as they only serve to push demand downstream,” the chief inspector said.

“In the handful of authorities where financial pressure has taken a real toll – Northamptonshire being the most extreme example – we have seen the double impact of both financial crisis and the diversion of senior officers’ attention away from service management, with the result that social care services are suffering.”

Workforce stability was a particular challenge for children’s services departments. Some local authorities were too reliant on agency staff, while there was a 40% turnover rate at director level, Spielman noted.

This was the “highest level of change in a generation”.

  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and publicfinance.co.uk

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