Drive to raise standards in struggling schools

St Helens Star: The council has put in place measures to raise schools standards (stock image) The council has put in place measures to raise schools standards (stock image)

STRUGGLING schools are facing a tough new regime that will see head teachers put under greater pressure to drive up standards.

The council-led strategy follows a series of alarming Ofsted reports at St Helens secondary schools, which have been highlighted by the Star over the past year.

It will also aim to tackle the worrying trend which is seeing too many pupils slipping backwards at secondary education after a good foundation at primary schools.

The key aims are to promote high achievement among children to ensure they reach their full potential and raise progress among vulnerable pupils.

But in cases where schools have serious failings council officers will step in to take action.

The proposed ‘school effectiveness strategy’ for the next three years – which was presented to council cabinet members last week – sets out a five point action plan to target improvements.

Measures include: All schools and academies to be at least good or improving by spring 2016.

For the gap in achievement between the most vulnerable students aged 7 to 11 and 14 to 16 and their fellow pupils in line with the national average by autumn 2015.

Performance of primary schools must remain among the highest in the country.

Rates of pupils’ progress by the time they are 16 at secondary school to meet the national average by autumn 2015 All early years learning to be judged at least ‘good’ by the regulator Ofsted by spring 2016.

St Helens Council will seek an independent person to chair a School Improvement Board, which will report to the council’s cabinet.

To ensure targets are met that they will use, when appropriate, warning notices and intervention powers to “accelerate the pace of improvement”.

Although the performance of primary schools in St Helens is among the best in the country, with 89 per cent rated as ‘good, or ‘better’ by Ofsted, not one secondary school has been judged ‘outstanding’.

Haydock, Rainhill and Cowley were said to be ‘good’ at their last inspection. But Rainford, De La Salle and St Cuthberts require improvement and St Augustine’s was judged inadequate.

Of the academies, Sutton was judged to require improvement while Hope was placed in special measures earlier this year.

The strategy states resources must now be “effectively marshalled to assess improvement in its secondary schools and act appropriately and vigorously to assist in its delivery”.

Where a school is deemed ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted, a monitoring group will be set up within a week to ensure that a policy for improvement is rapidly adopted.

If a school is significantly underperforming, whether this is due to a breakdown in senior relationships or pupils’ safety has been compromised, the council will formally intervene.

This could include suspending the budget and replacing the governing body with an interim executive board.

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