Official: Isle of Wight council failed in its Statutory Duties in education

Official Hampshire CC report exposes catalogue of failures in education by the Isle of Wight council going back years, leaving education in a state that is ‘full of danger’.

county hall

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.
(Our emphasis)

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.
(Our emphasis)

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.

Image: simon Haytack under CC BY 2.0

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73 Comments on "Official: Isle of Wight council failed in its Statutory Duties in education"

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“Neither headteachers nor governors were properly supported.” “There are serious issues around school leadership and the quality of teaching – and there is clearly a relationship between the two.” Says it all – if the management doesnt know what they are doing, the staff cant know either. Make decisions, stick to them if they work, and inform staff about them in advance and in such a way… Read more »
Robert Jones
Ah yes; this is the system which the Tory party was just recently assuring us would soon be showing the benefits of their wise supervision over the last few years. Impressive. The report does make the point that the problems in island education go back beyond the last administration, as do most problems on the island. I haven’t the least doubt that’s true – it’s no excuse,… Read more »

Perhaps it is not surprising that the Conservative dominated Hants County Council places no blame on the “Academy” system per se for any of the Island’s educational disaster.

Robert Jones

Doesn’t come as a massive surprise, no… Of course, the failure on the island goes way beyond this Academy nonsense, but it’s been foisted on to a system which was already dysfunctional – in all the circumstances, that’s likely to have made it worse.

Robert Jones

Good article, by the way – particularly the question about why it took so long to publish this report, and why it’s being unveiled just before Christmas….

It is unsurprising really because IOW councils of all shades for decades have displayed a “day come day go”, half-soaked attitude to most Island matters. For evidence you only have to read the “Looking Back” section of the County Press. Read about various schemes made in the 1960’s through to the 1980’s. Much is proposed but nothing ever happens. A new this, that or whatever will be… Read more »

You can console yourself with the knowledge that it’s the same the nation over.


No it’s not (as bad as this). The isle of wight is the bottom of the league tables, that does not mean it is the same the country over. Many councils make sure the education service they provide is better than this!!!!!!!!


Hi, Trevor.

So, on the whole, all things considered, you’re happy with the national education system?

Robert Jones

It’s a little hard to tell how you’ve concluded that from his comment; the point is that the Isle of Wight’s education service is amongst the worst in the country – this doesn’t mean or imply that the standard in the rest of the country is stratospherically high: just that, poor though it may be, we’re worse.

Island Monkey

Well done David and Steve, will you add this to your CV now, or wait until after Christmas? You must both be really proud.

Steve, any chance now of your giving us some of the money we paid you back?

Steve Goodman

Probabaly not. (And aren’t islanders still paying generous pensions to our many recent ex-c.execs?)

Anyone else notice that this report was complete in October? When do the council leave it to be release? In the few days before Christmas when they hope not one will see it. I was all for the Indie when they got elected. I believed what they said. I had high hopes that they were going to do things differently at county hall, but what do we… Read more »
steve s

There’s no manipulation, Diz.
This report is coming to Cabinet in January. That’s why it’s just been published.

Man in Black

The report is dated October, so why didn’t it appear at the November or December cabinet meetings? I don’t remember them being particularly heavy agendas.

You have to admit that releasing this just before the Christmas break stinks of the practices of the old regime.

What a shame that ‘Holiday Hijack’ is alive and kicking!

steve s

As the report doesn’t reflect on the current administration, why on earth would we want to bury it?

Let not forget that the Islands education standards were abysmal before the Tories got into power in 2005. Many of the current batch of Independents (Shirley Smart, Ian Stephens etc) were actually in office before 2005 and did nothing to address the appaling standards. Perhaps that why they would not want this report to be published to widely. The report clearly blames the Heads and teachers as… Read more »
The date is October but the report might have had to be cleared by Ofsted first which would explain the delay. Although the report is damning and rightly so for once it is at least accompanied by an explanation of what someone is going to do about it! I know plenty of people who work in schools who have grown in confidence this term because of the… Read more »
Hi, Robert, thanks for the comment. In truth, I wasn’t concluding anything from, Trevor’s, comment, I’m pushing the boundary of premise within context. Firstly let me make it completely clear that I in no way condone the actions of previous administrators charged with reasonable responsibility of educational substance on the island, indeed….the actions were/are reprehensible and will leave (if not remedied) a legacy of cultural vandalism. I… Read more »
Robert Jones
You could take the view, and I often did when at school, that all standards of education are largely irrelevant to the world beyond school or university, and that is more likely to be the case today when the problems of the world are so deep-seated. In other words, the content of the curriculum has always been contentious, and probably more than somewhat irrelevant. But then, the… Read more »

I see the historical lineage and for all it’s fluctuations it’s predominantly been one on a trajectory of growth, so there’s been room to manoeuvre.

But what when growth is no longer possible, how relative do the teachings need to mirror real world issues then?

phil jordan
I am continually and impressively minded to watch and listen to the young people who choose to appear on University Challenge….. the depth and understanding, not to mention knowledge, of certain subjects is astounding… I often wonder where these young people come from…. They do not appear to conform to general ideas of education….and yet, perhaps, they are products of it… Measuring eduction is just measuring… examples… Read more »
So the content of the overall cultural narrative provided and instilled by education matter not, provided that we can marvel at a select few pontificating on abstract subjects rooted in duality and leaving us with a situation whereby some of the kids in the audience are eating from foodbanks whilst captured in awe at the intellectual gymnastics of the head boy and girl? Are you content with… Read more »
phil jordan
No. Since that seeks to aggregate conflicting, yet interdependent, examples of how the entire system works. The fact that, in your example, some people in the audience *might* be using foodbanks ‘seems’ irrelevant in a direct assessment of educational attainment and my comments generally. That poverty exists is completely accepted. (…and the effect that has on educational opportunity) That some people achieve *intellectual* significance which, you seem… Read more »
Don’t let me interrupt this interesting dialogue. I just want to say that those “who seem to excel in certain aspects” in University Challenge don’t necessarily tell us much about Education. In our areas of expertise we can all sound pretty knowledgeable to others outside it, and could do it on TV as long as we had the self-confidence and wish to do so. Also, I expect… Read more »
phil jordan
@tryme: …but those young people have been educated by our system…. The premise is, of course, that *those* young people are already educated in these matters, access wider understandings outside of educational constraints or are just exceptionally competent…! We seem to keep asking specific educational pre-requisites that are by definition exclusively contained to be worldy wise and all encompassing. I happen to think that is not reasonable… Read more »

It’s depressing, Phil, if you think it’s a dead loss – “not reasonable”! – to include “all encompassing… wider understandings” in schooling or at uni. I would have thought it’s precisely this that youngsters we admire for their thinking will have largely gained through their “worldly wise” formal education. (Not that we necessarily agree on who those young people are).


PS. Like Chris Bonney I found it hard to understand your post, but at once put it down to the late morning indulgences of Xmas Day!


…late evening indulgences

Chris Bonney
@phil Jordan, One of the most concerning aspects of this dialogue s your pseudo-intellectual comment above. When the elected start using a syntax and choice of words that is wilfully obfuscating, it is a good idea to take stock of what they are up to. Any councillors who have recently been elected to office might do themselves a favour by standing well back from this mess and… Read more »
Robert Jones
I’m bound to drag the quality of the conversation down now, since I had two gins and tonic before my Christmas dinner, a bottle of Rioja with it, and am now hitting the Courvoisier; but what has struck me about the young people whom I’ve met is that they’re not wanting in intelligence, but relatively few of them can write, or argue logically – because to do… Read more »
IMHO the role of education at secondary level is to give young people a background of general knowledge and the tools to think for themselves. Tertiary education builds on this by providing a deeper knowledge of particular backgrounds, and the tools to investigate and report on those investigations. Above all, education- especially tertiary education- should encourage students have the confidence to question EVERYTHING and not just accept… Read more »

Couldn’t agree more on this….
“the island is failing and we have to recognize and deal with that, for their sake and ours”

We can view this as an opportunity.

phil jordan

..we do…and we have

Clearly the system doesn’t work or we wouldn’t be in such a mess. It’s most certainly not ‘my’ example, it is an observable fact that a proportion of our children are now eating from foodbanks, whether or not they happen to be in the audience isn’t the point, allow me some licence on the vague analogy, the point is the entire thing is broken, hence the absurdity… Read more »

Are not questions still being asked by scientists about the validity of ” peak oil and climate change” arguments?


Both are accepted by the majority.


@PL “Both are accepted by the majority.”

You might be interested in the report in the July Forbes Magazine (US)- “That Scientific Global Warming Consensus…Not!” – that challenges that received wisdom.


You’ve read this, yes?




Check the wiki for the ‘heartland institute’ that provided much of the authors information.

In specific…see what it has to say about them influencing school curriculum.

@PL Thanks for the tip about the Heartland Institute”. It blows the credibility of the Forbes article to pieces. Check out what Sourcewatch says about the “Think Tank” (sic). BTW Sally, PL is correct in that education should include sessions on the environment and the threats to it. That education should be based on independent knowledge no biased information whether it is channelled through ideological or religious-based… Read more »
Robert Jones
They are; but by far the safer and most responsible course is to accept that these developments are real, and that we should do our best, so far as we can, to counteract them. The snag about those who have been most sceptical in their response to climate change is that so many of them have vested interests in denying it’s happening: I’m not entirely sure whether… Read more »

@RJ “(but don’t remember winters like this in my relatively long life)”

What about 1947, 1963, 1978-79? Nostalgia is not what it was! :-))

Robert Jones
Those were bad winters in a different way (I don’t remember 1947!) – what’s changed,or is in the process of changing, is temperature, and the amount of rainfall. It may, eg, feel cold right now, but only because many of us have got used to central heating: it’s actually extremely mild – and this isn’t good news; we need periods of real cold, to kill off hideous… Read more »
phil jordan
My goodness.. There is much to discuss within all of this… I have no idea what proportion of children are eating from foodbanks……do you? Is it a some sort of measure of educational attainment…? (I’m prepared to accept in a broad consensus that poverty hinders educational opportunity but…that’s a very different discussion, is it not?) I’m interested however, in the notion of “fit for purpose” which, I… Read more »
‘346,992 people received a minimum of three days emergency food from Trussell Trust foodbanks in 2012-13, compared to 128,697 in 2011-12 and up from 26,000 in 2008-09. Of those helped in 2012-13, 126,889 (36.6 percent) were children’ This…. “and how to place their holistic view into some sense that mirrors the world they live in”, is absolutely fundamental, so is the reality of our problems being reflected… Read more »
phil jordan
Right… so, if we accept that people at university (or those in any audience for a tv show…) are probably not in that classification of children…I’m still interested to know how the impact of using food banks (which I am quite prepared, to accept exist – and disgracefully so – from a socially concerned perspective…)impact on education? We seem to have drifted into another dimension…? We also… Read more »

Ok, keeping it brief.

Is the reality of our problems being reflected in the current curriculum and teachings or not?

Steve Goodman

Not, is the likely answer to your question I fear.

More alarming to me is the failure to reflect the reality of our problems in the policies of world leaders. If nothing else, they must know that doing too little too late will always cost more. There’s only so much we can do ourselves. At this time of year maybe they should be asking What would Jesus do?


He’d most likely consult Plato on the causes of soil erosion, realise that by the time he was born his lands had already been turned to desert, think for a bit and then go and turn over the tables of commodity investors. Or…just turn everything into wine and go for the hedonism thing.

And it’s not ‘likely’, Steve, it’s a flat NO……..and you know it.

Tanja Rebel

Perhaps it is time to introduce ethics as a subject in our national curriculum. This should cover our responsibility to take care of the environment + the importance of aesthetics, which really is environment for the soul.


Quite right! “The Only Way is Ethics!” :-))

Robert Jones
This was covered in a way once upon a time – it was called various things, but I remember it as RE – Religious Education. I hadn’t a lot of patience with the religion – and have even less now – but it was a period in the school week when we could discuss issues which were essentially ethical and moral; probably the most useful period in… Read more »

Anyone fancy posting a copy of this on David Pugh’s Wiki page?

I’m sure it will be gone by morning!

There seems to be a misunderstanding with my last comment, as we’re hearing a chorus of ‘We’ve got nothing to hide’ coming from the Indies. I’m not talking about the Indies burying it. Do the Indies not realised that they are, again, being played by the officers at the council? This shattering expose of Island education failures has, without doubt, been arranged to silently slip out over… Read more »

I guess it’s just Forbes doing what Forbes does, but it has nothing to do with the serious analysis of scientific data and challenges nothing.

@PL However the Forbes article does provide a survey of several reports that appear to demonstrate the differences in scientific opinions on climate change (generally agreed) and its causation (a substantial level of disagreement). [I am no scientist so cannot comment just collect. compare and contrast information from more informed people on the subject.] On the other hand, Gaia entusiasts will dismiss such reports out-of-hand perhaps due… Read more »


Robert Jones
That climate change is happening is perfectly obvious. The controversy arises mostly on the ground of whether human activity has caused or exacerbated it or not. Why, you might think, would it matter whether we’d caused it or not – what difference does it make? There’s a good reason why some like to say we’ve had nothing to do with it: and that is, the more we… Read more »
Tanja Rebel
Well said, Robert Jones! We need a new economic system and a new way of thinking which respects the earth and all beings living upon it. RE (now RS) indeed provides a valuable opportunity for pupils to discuss ethics, but this can be done under many guises – you can call it Philosophy or just plain Ethics. The title is not important, as long as pupils are… Read more »
Steve Goodman
This has drawn attention to failure in teaching practice, content, & results. Perhaps our improving island community could use the opportunity associated with the imminent additional effort (& money?) to lead on improving the national curriculum, which is about to include financial education. That could be done simply (& cheaply) by saying something as basic as “banks can and will rip you off” which is otherwise unlikely… Read more »
It’s not enough, Steve, the fundamentals need taught….and for goodness sake, let the teachers teach, there is nothing wrong, per se, with the content and substance of teaching practice, it’s the narrative and direction of it’s focus that’s missing, ‘aspirations’ must change in accordance with the possible, equitable and just. We’ve experienced various stages of r-evolutionary phases, most latterly the agricultural, industrial and the technological, throughout that… Read more »
@Cicero. Kudos to you and the candour of your reply, thank you. Just to let you know on the ‘Gaia’ thing, I’m not a subscriber myself, at least…not yet, I am however a fastidious student of the interconnections, dependencies, symbiotic relationships and interwoven patterns throughout the fabric of ‘life’, considering that we all intrinsically know/feel that we’re all made up of jelly babies and bits of star… Read more »
I have come to this story somewhat late since , like other readers , Christmas festivities drowned out news interrogation . However ,I have read the 69 comments posted so far and none have really focused on the extreme damage to our children reported on by the Director for Childrens services for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. It is in relation to the stewardship of Pugh… Read more »

Hi, Redstream.

To be fair, I addressed the extreme damage quite early on in the thread, but perhaps a bit beyond the boundaries of standards.

You rightly seek remedy on accountability, but, IMHO, you should also weigh up the relevance of how the portfolios content is directed.



Not sure if this is a resource that anyone within education (or anyone really) might find useful, maybe some mix and matching here and there perhaps.A lot of the computer tech stuff is outdated, but there’s still lots of good stuff to be had.

I find the, ‘Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences’, fascinating.
(they are free course btw)


Since 1998, science teacher Michael Becker has guided a program that offers students a higher level of connectivity between school and community. Using a hands-on approach to solving real-life problems…..