Damning report finds council is failing city pupils

PUPILS in Portsmouth are being failed and falling below the national average, inspectors have said in a damning report.

Thursday, 24th March 2016, 6:01 am
Ofsted has sharply criticised Portsmouth City Council

Ofsted is demanding that the city council turns words into action to improve education standards.

It comes as the authority is criticised for not having a consistent vision, for disadvantaged youngsters underachieving and for special needs pupils not making progress.

Dad-of-four Kevin Whittle, a parent governor at Stamshaw Junior School, said the authority needs to do more.

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He said: ‘Portsmouth City Council is unbelievably failing our children of all ages.

‘It’s so hard nowadays to get jobs. If our children in Portsmouth are not getting an education at the highest standard possible then if somebody from Southampton or Waterlooville goes for the same job what chance have they got?

‘This is a problem they’ve known about for years and years.’

The report heavily criticised the city council’s work.

Councillor Neill Young, cabinet member for education, added: ‘For us not to be at the national average for GCSEs is not acceptable and we need to do better.

‘We have got a strategy in place. What it highlights is that we’ve got our aspirations for where we want to be. What we’ve now got to do is to work with schools to make sure we implement that strategy.’

Major flaws in the council’s improvement bid include:

n Children between 11 and 16, and from 16 to 19 are falling below national averages.

n The underachievement of disadvantaged children under 16 is not being addressed successfully.

n Children with special education needs are not making sufficient progress.

n Absence of a consistent vision for excellence.

n Plans to improve the city’s prosperity did not prominently include education until recently.

n Improvement plans lack urgency and precision.

The council’s director of education has admitted pupils are not well served.

Alison Jeffery, director of children’s services and education at the council, said: ‘The report is clear that children in Portsmouth have not been well served in the past and there is still work to do now.

‘Ofsted recognise, however, that education is now seen as a key element in the city’s regeneration, and that everyone is clear about the need for a step change.’

The report criticised the way schools were held to account. It said while broad aims were set for ages 11 to 16 to match or better national averages, there was no challenge to do so.

There was also a lack of challenge to those teaching in early years education.

The report continued: ‘A succession of fresh-start approaches and restructuring of services have impeded progress.

‘Short-term strategies, such as arrangements for cluster working between schools and an authority-wide project to promote progress for disadvantaged pupils, have been introduced and then ceased with limited effect.’

Inspectors also said there was no ‘sharply-focused’ practical strategy showing how the council improvement service would raise standards.

Repeated changes were criticised, with councillors not maintaining a persistent approach and some schemes brought in allowed to stop.

But it said the council’s officers did recognise employability skills were important.

Despite this, officers were ‘too accepting’ of schools’ grade predictions rather than challenging them to do better.

Improvements have been made with a permanent service director and deputy, but the council did not use its statutory powers at all.

Expert leadership had not been grown in schools and the council was not well informed about working together.

Lib Dem leader Gerald-Vernon Jackson said the council had done good work in special needs education.

Revealed: governor posts left unfilled despite campaign

DOZENS of school governor posts have remained unfilled, despite a major drive to secure more volunteers.

In the wake of the Ofsted report published yesterday, Portsmouth City Council revealed there were 63 vacancies out of 542 governor posts. Of those unfilled the council has a responsibility to fill 39 places.

Ofsted praised a recruitment drive run last year and backed by The News, but said more could be done to make schools accountable. Alison Jeffery director of children’s services and education at the council added: ‘We welcome Ofsted’s report.

‘We want to play our part in helping all children in Portsmouth to achieve as well as they possibly can: they are the future of this city.’

Kevin Whittle, 35, has two children Sydney, 11, and Bayley, eight, who go to Stamshaw Junior School.

Last year he led protests when the school was due to become an academy, which has since happened.

But he said his concern was with the council, not with the academy chain.

He has since become a parent governor and is directly involved.

Mr Whittle said: ‘I make sure I get my voice heard and I say the things that happen in the school.

‘They try bypassing a few questions and I go back to them and get the truth. That’s my job as a parent governor.’