Doncaster Council ‘shamed’ by poor school results

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A REPORT into a Yorkshire town’s poor primary school performance said the council was “shamed and disappointed” by results which fell short of what had been predicted.

Doncaster schools had the lowest level of 11-year-old pupils achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and maths in Yorkshire this year. Last week’s league tables also show it was in the bottom 10 nationally out of 150 areas with more than one-in-four children not achieving level four results in the three subjects.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb wrote to Doncaster Council, along with other authorities towards the bottom of league tables, to demand answers.

Doncaster Council’s reply to the Government, obtained by The Yorkshire Post under the Freedom of Information Act, includes details of a “rapid improvement initiative” for pupils up to the age of 11 in primary schools.

The report says progress has been made in securing school improvement and putting strategies in place. However it adds: “Evidence of successful intervention needs to translate into outcomes for children. Having set targets with the evidence available and agreed with those schools the 2015 outcomes were not what was anticipated by schools, the local authority and Ofsted. Suffice it to say we are all shamed and disappointed.”

The report warns there were major gaps in school predictions and actual results in both maths and reading. It says based on teacher assessments 87 per cent of pupils were expected to reach level four in reading and also in maths, in fact test results showed 83.7 per cent achieved it in reading and 81.9 per cent achieved it in maths.

It also warned that the overall measure of pupils achieving the expected standard across the three Rs had declined compared with last year. Doncaster Council’s response to the Department for Education shows how the council launched a Raising Achievement Initiative in September.

It also sets out reasons for the declining results. The report points out that 38 per cent of school leaders are new over a two-year period. It says these new leaders are beginning to address inadequate teaching. It also says that “insufficient good quality teaching in key stage two is at the heart of the underachievement”. It says that although poor teaching is being addressed in schools of concern, a high degree of outstanding teaching was required to make up the deficit over time of “inadequate leadership of learning and teaching”.

It adds that: “Too much teaching is not yet outstanding and recruitment of teachers in Doncaster is proving a challenge.”

The report also suggests that a council clampdown on “maladministration” in standard assessment tests may have led to some schools failing to access extra support for pupils who were entitled to it. It adds: “Doncaster has been challenged and found wanting in Sats administration in 2013 and 14 to the extent that two head teachers had to leave and five other schools had to undergo investigation.”

The report said that raising attainment action plans were being developed by school leaders and that leading year six teachers were being recruited and a training schedule for their professional development put in place.

The council is also setting attainment targets for 2016.

The report said it wanted to see 85 per cent of pupils attain the national standard in reading, 84 per cent in maths and 82 per cent in writing.