Ofsted highlights '˜systematic underperformance' in schools in Northamptonshire

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An Ofsted director has highlighted 'systematic underperformance' after a review of all the schools and nurseries in Northamptonshire.

In an open letter, Ofsted Regional Director Chris Russell said there were too many schools of all types and phases that are “not good enough”.

The county is one of the worst-performing local authorities in the country for the achievement of disadvantaged children at key stage 2.

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Only 59 percent of pupils who receive free school meals achieved the expected standards in reading, writing and mathematics at the end of primary school compared with 66 per cent nationally.

Mr Russell said: “There needs to be greater oversight and co-ordinated action from those accountable for educational provision in the county.

“In the early years, too few children achieve well across the prime areas of learning. Although learning outcomes have started to improve, not enough children are making the progress that they need to make in order to be ready for primary school.

“At primary level, just under a quarter of pupils in Northamptonshire attend a school that is less than good compared with 15 per cent nationally. “This relatively poor performance is reflected in pupil outcomes.”

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Mr Russell highlighted the fact children in the county have been under the national standard in the phonics check for the last three years.

At key stage 1, 74 percent of children in Northamptonshire reached level 2 writing compared with 77 percent nationally. In reading, two percent fewer pupils than nationally reached level two.

Pupils eligible for free school meals were further behind their more advantaged classmates than nationally.

Mr Russell said he was “particularly concerned” that at primary level, higher-ability pupils are not being supported to achieve as well as they should.

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He said: “Inspectors report that teachers are not making sure that the most able pupils are sufficiently challenged and that, as a result, they are not making sufficient progress.

“At secondary level, more than a third of the county’s pupils attend a school that is less than good compared with 21 percent nationally. Again, this is reflected in outcomes for pupils.”

As many of the schools in the county are now academies, the Ofsted director said he was also writing to a number of multi-academy trusts and to the regional schools commissioner as well as Northamptonshire County Council.

Mr Russell has also sent the letter to local politicians and MPs, as he said a “strong political will” is needed to bring about the concerted action required to improve education performance.

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Jonathan Lewis, Northamptonshire County Council’s assistant director for education, said the main thing that can be done to boost performance in county schools was to entice better teachers from surrounding counties.

He said: “I’d say to them, we’re a growing county with children from all over the world, it’s an exciting time to be here.

People don’t get into teaching for money, it’s for the challenge and we have that here.”