A report, dated October 2013, heading to the Cabinet in early January exposes the long-term failings of the Isle of Wight council in relation to the Island’s education system.
The paper, prepared by the Hampshire’s Director of Children’s Services, John Coughlan, is hugely critical of the Isle of Wight council’s part in the disastrous educational standards on the Island saying that “it failed in a number of statutory duties vis a vis schools” which were “damaging in their potential consequences”.
Setting the scene
The report starts by outlining the current situation,
The most recent figures from Ofsted, as of June 2013, show that the island has half the proportion of outstanding schools as in England as a whole and five times the proportion of schools that are inadequate.
It goes on to say,
Despite some improvement in 2013, the quality of the island’s schools taken together lags a long way behind the standard achieved in most of the rest of the country. A major and concerted effort is needed to bring educational outcomes to, and beyond, the national average.
The council’s failings
The report sets out some of the reasons why the failings occurred.
- The Authority took neither rapid nor decisive action in relation to poorly performing schools.
- Its use of data and information was so poor that it had no accurate sense of which schools were performing poorly, or well, and in what ways.
- It failed to develop robust school improvement strategies, leaving itself, and others, without direction and leaving schools broadly to their own devices.
- This lack of focus for the work of the whole system allowed those without authority to fill the space, putting forward solutions and schemes that frequently lacked coherence and aimed at different goals.
- Rather than seeking to lead schools forward towards educational excellence on behalf of the island’s community the Authority used schools’ growing self management, indeed autonomy, as a chance to cut them adrift.
The Island’s schools ‘felt abandoned’
The report goes on to add that the council gave no support for headteachers or governors and staff were left to ‘fill the void’.
It reduced its capacity to such an extent that it was no longer possible to offer leadership, challenge, support and intervention where that was necessary and although the few staff left worked very hard to fill the void, there is little evidence of concerted action by the Authority, across the island, to tackle problems common to a number of schools, little evidence of the kind of school to school collaboration that leads to higher standards and scant evidence that the Authority involved the school community often enough in the decisions it took.
Neither headteachers nor governors were properly supported.
In short, many of the island’s schools felt abandoned. Some primary headteachers, in particular, were deflected from their work in overseeing teaching and learning because they had to spend their time procuring support services, only tangentially related to their core purpose, with little guidance from the Authority.
Reorganisation not solely responsible
Although the roll-out of the former Conservative-led council’s school reorganisation, spearheaded by David Pugh, Alan Wells and Steve Beynon, clearly played at part in the current failings, John Coughlan believes it’s not solely responsible for the position Island education is in at the moment.
The report highlights some of the other issues,
- There are more deep-seated reasons around culture, beliefs, expectations and insularity that are at play.
- The system has been heavily self-referential with insufficient regard paid to what happens across the country or in the areas of statistical neighbours.
- It has seemed enough for a school to consider itself the best in its area and scant attention has been given to the fact that across the country the school might well be closer to the bottom than the top.
- There are serious issues around school leadership and the quality of teaching – and there is clearly a relationship between the two.
The report reveals a plan to drive up standards in education across the Island, with the following headline aspirations.
- The percentage of children attaining a good level of development in the early years will be two points above the national average by September 2016.
- Performance at the end of Key Stage 2 at level 4 for reading, writing and mathematics, taken together will be two percentage points above the national average by September 2016.
- Performance at the end of Key Stage 2 for level 5 for reading, writing and mathematics taken together will be 1 percentage point above the national average by September 2016.
- Performance at the end of Key Stage 4, 5A*-C GCSE including English and maths, will be at the national average by September 2016.
- The gap between days lost in absence on the island and nationally, and the incidence of persistent absence, will be halved by September 2015 and removed altogether by September 2016.
As well as these aspirations, a strategy of how this will be achieved is laid out in the report. For full details see the draft report embedded below.
Press release about new panel
Shortly after these papers were released yesterday (Monday) a press release was issued by council about a new Schools and Educational Attainment Scrutiny and Support Panel being set up.
Rather strangely, there is no mention of the damning report by John Coughlan.
Some may be left wondering how this balances with the openness and transparency promised by the new Independent-led administration.