The 'stuck' schools of North Northamptonshire and the council's plan to improve them

There are 30 primary schools in Northamptonshire requiring improvement - three of them are 'stuck'

Sunday, 10th October 2021, 6:44 am
What's being done to help our 'stuck' schools? Image: Getty.

A county education boss has explained why three North Northamptonshire schools under local authority control have been classed as requiring improvement for years.

The three schools in the worst situation are Alfred Street Juniors in Rushden which has been in Ofsted' s third category for for 14.9 years; Meadowside Primary in Burton Latimer which has required improvement for 12.2 years; and Thrapston Primary School which has been in the same category for five years.

The schools are all regarded as 'stuck' - the term used when a school has been in Ofsted's third category for two or more consecutive inspections.

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Cllrs Philip Irwin, Leanne Buckingham and Wendy Brackenbury were among those who asked questions of the council's education department

The data was revealed in a meeting of the North Northants Council's Education, Skills and Employment Executive Advisory Panel meeting last Wednesday (October 6).

The council looks after 37 of the area's 142 schools - one SEND school, one secondary and 35 primary schools which have not yet been made into academies or free schools. They are known as local authority (LA) maintained and the number of schools overseen by the council in our area is higher than the national average.

Of the LA maintained primaries, none are inadequate, 23 per cent require improvement, 69 per cent are good and eight per cent are outstanding. The performance is well below that recorded in LA schools nationally, with one per cent inadequate, eight per cent requiring improvement, 75 per cent good and 16 per cent outstanding.

There is a similar picture in the county's primary academies - where nine per cent of primaries are outstanding, 63 per cent are good, 24 per cent require improvement and four per cent are inadequate. This is compared to national averages for primary academies of eight per cent outstanding, 70 per cent good, 19 per cent requiring improvement and three per cent inadequate.

Appearing before councillors at Wednesday's meeting, the council's School Effectiveness Leader Jo Hutchinson outlined how her department was helping those schools that are stuck and others who require input from the council.

She said that the department had recently employed its own associate headteacher who they could send into school as a troubleshooter to provide support where it was needed.

"Nationally, locally maintained secondary and primary schools are performing better in terms of their Ofsted judgements than academies," she said. "But in North Northamptonshire, LA maintained primaries are performing similarly to primary academies in terms of their Ofsted judgements."

She said that outstanding schools had previously been exempted from full Ofsted inspections but that those schools would now be re-inspected.

Ofsted inspections had now recommenced after being suspended during the pandemic and Ms Hutchinson said the county's 30 academy and LA maintained primaries that required improvement could expect an imminent visit.

"As a school effectiveness team we're making a real point this term of visiting all our maintained schools to offer support but also towards ensuring that schools are enabled to move back to business as usual and focusing very carefully on curriculum provision and quality of education moving forward," she said.

"For those schools that have had a requires improvement judgement more than once we call these 'stuck' schools.

"The aim of our school effectiveness team is to look at ways we can support those schools to move from RI to good or better.

"We have school improvement partners (SIPs), and there's a range in skillset across the team so we can make sure we cater for all the levels of education.

"In January 2021 we introduced an associate headteacher to our team. I believe that that is a vital addition to the team in a number of ways.

"The associate headteacher is in place to lead and facilitate improvement in schools causing concern and to provide additional support with individual settings to facilitate rapid improvement or to undertake the duties of a headteacher where a school may be experiencing leadership issues."

Targeted Improvement Groups (TIGs) are also used to stop schools slipping down into special measures, Ofsted's lowest category.

Ms Hutchinson said that intensive support was now being done with the 'stuck' schools and that monitoring inspections carried out at all three schools in spring had showed that effective action was being taken. She added that the new North School Effectiveness Strategy would see partnership working strengthened to ensure schools improved for all pupils.

She added: "It's very pleasing to know that the actions we have put in place as the school effectiveness team are beginning to have the desired effect and hopefully with the pace of progression going on in these schools they will become 'good' in their next inspections."

Councillor Wendy Brackenbury said that she would like regular updates, particularly with regard to the three 'stuck' schools.

She said: "I understand that there's a lot of work going on now but really they should never have required improvement for the number of years that they have."

Cllr Philip Irwin asked about whether those schools that required improvement had anything in common.

Ms Hutchinson said: "Often it's based around quality of leadership and management in the school and that's an area that will often need strengthening and support. That's why we decided to bring in the role of the associate headteacher because they are then able to focus on that aspect of the school and that's made a tremendous impact to date."

Cllr Leanne Buckingham said: "I am really shocked that there were three schools in requires improvement for so long. That rings massive alarm bells. Can you take us through why, for fourteen years, a school has required improvement?

Ms Hutchinson said: "Some of this happened before my time. It's a very long time for that school to be in that particular category and I agree with you and there have been several teams who've been in the school and worked with them and had various improvements targets in place.

"Eventually what's changed now and made that progress now is that there has been a change of leadership over time and actually that in itself with the support from our LA has made the difference."

An amalgamation of one of the area's stuck schools - Alfred Street Juniors - with nearby Tennyson Road Infant School, is currently being considered by the council.

FACTS AND FIGURES

There are 142 schools in the north of the county - with 37 of them under the supervision of the council. Fourteen of these are primaries in East Northants.

Local authority primaries: Outstanding - 3; Good - 24; Require Improvement - 8; Inadequate - 0

Academy primaries: Outstanding - 7; Good - 48; Require Improvement 18; - Inadequate - 3

Currently 77 per cent of North Northants LA maintained primaries are good or outstanding - significantly lower than the national average of 91 per cent.

Currently 71 per cent of North Northants academy primaries are good or outstanding - lower than the national average of 78 per cent.

Thirty primaries - 22 academies and 8 LA maintained primary schools - are in Ofsted's Requires improvement category. This is 22 per cent of LA maintained schools and 29 cent of academies.

Out of the eight LA primary schools in RI, three are 'stuck', one since 2006, one since 2009 and one since 2012.

There is only one LA maintained secondary - which is classed outstanding.

The 18 secondary academies fare better than the national average; 21 per cent of them are outstanding; 56 per cent are good; 18 per cent require improvement and 5 per cent are inadequate. That compares to a national average of 11 per cent outstanding; 56 per cent good; 26 per cent require improvement and six per cent are inadequate.