The Committee considered the report of the Corporate Director of Children and Young People’s Services which provided Members with an update of recent Ofsted Inspection of County Durham’s maintained schools and educational outcomes in County Durham in 2022.
The Head of Education and Skills was in attendance to present the report and deliver a presentation that provided Members with details of how inspections had changed over the years; details of Ofsted Inspections from September 2022; Ofsted Inspection Outcomes for different School Categories; Summary Outcome data for children in Durham Schools by Key Stage (for copy of report and presentation, see file of minutes).
Councillor Walton referred to Ofsted inspections and agreed with the Officer that parents were not putting as much emphasis on this, and parents were focusing more on what the school could offer and she thought this would continue. She then referred to those schools that had not been inspected by Ofsted and what impact did this have on the Council and moving forward where would it leave the Council as the trend is that parents are not looking at Ofsted reports would priorities shift.
The Head of Education and Skills responded that schools were still anxious of Ofsted inspections. They were currently struggling to attract leaders for Primary and Secondary schools and people to teach maths and science. Parents are looking at the provision in the school as a priority. If maintained schools had not been inspected for some time, they have a levelling system that they operated called ‘monitoring and intervention level,’ it was tougher with academies and academy trusts, but they did have a good dialogue with these, and some schools come to the authority to talk about issues in the school. Moving forward if Ofsted are not conducting inspections, then what is the point. In terms of special schools recruiting was difficult that impacted on supply teachers so this needed careful consideration and Ofsted would have a role in this.
Councillor Currah referred to the school he and his son attended that was like an exam passing machine, they also did not offer languages and asked what the policy was around this.
The Head of Education and Skills responded in terms of policy the EBacc are in favour of high academic standards and ensure that all children do languages and 90% by a certain date, this was fine if you had plenty of language teachers which the authority did not. He commented that a number of children were not good at languages, but they do have some schools who have a large cohort doing languages because of the expectation and were struggling. Other schools are doing less in languages due to the lack of resource.
Councillor Waldock asked how many schools were subject to Ofsted monitoring visits and if any of the Ofsted reports had contradicted how they thought the school was performing.
The Head of Education and Skills indicated that they very rarely disagree with where they think an outcome is if anything they are usually pleasantly surprised. Monitoring inspections take place on inadequate schools if not reassured then they would conduct further monitoring inspections.
Councillor Jopling indicated that good schools were made up of many elements and the most important was a good head and parents that engaged. She asked if Ofsted looked at schools where children may have a number of difficulties and did, they take this into account and commented that it was easy to give a percentage to a school which resulted in parents not wanting to send their children to that school. She stated that you need a broad spectrum of children at every school as the bright children helped other children.
Councillor Simmons indicated that the problems with small schools was where a teacher has two or three year groups with all abilities and asked if there were any suggestions to help these small schools.
The Head of Education and Skills gave an example of a school who had an Ofsted inspection that was good, but they were going to come back as there was a deep dive on a subject area and they had a NQT who was the curriculum lead for the subject. He commented that the authority run a series of networks for smaller schools on subjects, but they still wanted trusts to be part of these networks and share practice, so those teachers were never isolated and had a curriculum and materials to access.
Councillor Simmons commented that she was currently a governor at four different schools and could see the difference with small schools.
The Chair referred to the figures and commented that since 2020 things had changed and her concern was if they had a previous Ofsted Inspection they had since faced COVID and now issues in Russia and Ukraine and children from these countries go to our schools and there was a language barrier and the children have been affected. She had visited some schools and saw how there was support for those children and the teachers worked extremely hard but if they were inspected again these children were not achieving as well as they could do and asked what happens in these situations.
The Head of Education and Skills responded when inspections were driven by progress this would impact on figures but now, they do not look at this and there was more allowance. In this example he would expect Ofsted to praise the school for the work been done with the refugees. He advised Members that the most successful children in County Durham were those whose first language was not English.
Resolved: That the contents of the report and presentation be noted.