Pathfinder plan set to improve Ofsted ratings, expert forecasts

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THE HEAD of a major school improvement programme launched earlier this year expects it to help increase the number of good schools in the county but says it will need major funding in future.

Education expert Mel Ainscow is leading an inquiry into why the region’s schools lag behind the rest of the country.

He told The Yorkshire Post he believed the work going on in 23 pathfinder schools would have an impact on their exam results and Ofsted inspections.

However, he said that it would take a larger funding commitment from councils across Yorkshire to be able to extend this programme to more schools in the county.

The latest tables from Ofsted show that parents in Yorkshire are less likely to be able to find a good school for their child than those living anywhere else in the country.

Figures show that at the end of March this year there were more than 500 schools that were rated less than good in the region.

Four per cent of schools, 71 in total, were rated as inadequate. Another 492, 23 per cent of all schools, were rated as requiring improvement. This means 27 per cent of schools in the county are currently rated less than good. This is worse than any other Government region in England. The national average is 20 per cent of schools.

However, a county wide programme has already been launched to raise standards. It started with a summit in Leeds as representatives from the 15 education authorities in the region joined forces. The work is being led by Prof Ainscow, who was the chief advisor of the Greater Manchester Challenge, which is credited with having a major impact on schools in the area.

The programme has started with 23 schools who have been chosen because they are currently rated as being less than good by Ofsted but are thought to be improving.

The schools have been grouped into four families who are working together to share ideas. The clusters of schools are primaries, West Yorkshire secondary schools, South Yorkshire secondaries and secondaries from North and East Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire.

Prof Ainscow said he hoped the work would help the schools involved to be rated as good by Ofsted in their next inspections.

The plan is then to present the lessons learned by the schools involved to the 15 councils in Yorkshire and Humber as a blueprint for how school improvement could be rolled out across the county. There has not been any major funding for the Yorkshire project so far but Prof Ainscow said this would be needed to take the work further.

He said a similar programme across the whole of Wales was working with a £20m budget. Prof Ainscow said he also believed that several key advisers would need to be appointed to full-time roles to help lead the school improvement work across the county.

At the summit held earlier this year council leaders called on everyone in Yorkshire to help play their part in raising school standards. The Yorkshire Post has responded to this by launching its Turning the Page campaign highlighting the importance of children mastering literacy and examining why pupils scores in reading and writing tests in the region lag behind the rest of the country.