Central Beds Council is having a ‘limited’ impact on driving up standards in schools, Ofsted has warned.
In a strongly worded letter to CBC chief executive Richard Carr, Ofsted regional director Andrew Cook has outlined his worries that pupils in Key Stage 2 (7 to 11-year-olds) are making weak progress and that disadvantaged students are falling behind children of more affluent families.
According to Mr Cook many children make good progress in Key Stage 1 but tail off when they move up.
This decline means that Central Beds’ Key Stage 2 students make less progress in reading and maths than in any other local authority area in the East of England, he said.
The director also issued his concerns over the gap between children who receive free school meals and those who do not, as just 55% of the former achieve minimum standards in reading, writing and maths.
CBC’s dealing of the slip in standards has been blasted by Mr Cook, who says that the authority “demonstrates and unwillingness to challenge school leaders and governors when standards, especially for disadvantaged students, are so poor.”
In a statement Mr Cook said that it is ‘unacceptable’ that pupils “are not receiving the standard of education they deserve simply because of the area they live in.”
He added: “Regardless of school structures, improvement is dependent on effective partnership, oversight and challenge.
“It is essential that those responsible for education provision across Central Bedfordshire work closely, and rapidly, together to transform the outcomes and life chances of pupils.”
In response to the letter CBC’s director of children’s services, Sue Harrison, has come out fighting, telling Mr Cook that he “misrepresents work to raise education standards in Central Bedfordshire”.
She wrote: “It is disingenuous of you to imply that because we have not issued any formal warning notices we are unwilling to challenge poor standards.
“You are quite aware that we employ a successful school intervention strategy that is providing robust and effective challenge to schools before we get to the stage of issuing formal warning notices.
“During this academic year we have issued 36 letters challenging schools causing us concern.”
She added: “We are collectively determined across all partners to make sure that all of our children and young people reach their full potential, and will not rest until outcomes for all pupils in Central Bedfordshire are among the best in the country.
“Having already made significant improvements in GCSE results - something that you fail to acknowledge - we are committed to making the same improvements for every key stage and for all pupils regardless of their situation.”