School swoop 'will confirm improvement in education'
DERBY is being given a "great opportunity" to show how education standards are improving by having 11 schools inspected in a week, according to the East Midlands' regional director of Ofsted.
And city councillor Martin Rawson is confident it will do just that.
Ofsted's Sean Harford made a whirlwind tour of Derby to ease fears that the lightning inspections, only revealed on Wednesday, were intended to add to mounting criticism of the city council.
Both the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, and Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw have criticised the city for its education standards recently.
But this has been countered by the council which points to the fact that old data from 2011 is being used to judge the city and that since then both SATs results and Ofsted ratings have improved.
The first five schools were being inspected yesterday and today, with six more to follow next week.
None are failing schools and they were all due inspections by the end of July.
Mr Harford said: "These 11 inspections taking place at the same time will give a clear up-to-date picture of where the city's education is currently.
"It would not have been right to target failing schools specifically but we are looking to see progress in the ones being inspected from the last time they were visited.
"So if they were satisfactory last time, they should be good or better this time and previous good schools should aspire towards outstanding."
Derby is the first authority to be targeted in the latest crackdown on school standards. The inspections are being carried out because Ofsted believes children "are being denied the standard of education they deserve".
As well as scrutinising schools, the Ofsted inspectors will be asking head teachers what they think about the city council's effectiveness and support.
Mr Harford said: "We also want to find out from schools which are inspected, and 10 others by phone, how they think the local authority is doing and whether they feel supported in what they do.
"We are in a different educational landscape now, with more academies and schools being independent, but the council still has a statutory duty to ensure children have access to a good education."
Inspected schools will receive the standard half day's notice of the inspectors' visit and the outcome will be public within 15 days.
Mr Harford said: "We will look at the results and write to the council to tell them the situation."
If the outcome of the inspections is poor, then an inspection of the city council's education department could be ordered, although the framework for this is not yet in place and it could be a least April before it would happen.
Mr Harford: "The bottom line is that these schools were due to be inspected so for teachers the situation is no different than it would have been, we are just pulling them forward."
Councillor Rawson, city council cabinet member for children and young people, agreed it would be a good opportunity for the city to show itself in a good light.
He said: "Our improvements have already started to show and I am confident that our schools will do well in the inspections.
"They are getting good support and I am hoping and expecting for a positive outcome."
But Dave Wilkinson, branch secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, did not view the inspections in such a positive light.
He said: "This is the latest in a series of attacks on Derby schools. It is appalling that the reaction from Ofsted to significant school improvement in Derby is to put teachers and head teachers under more pressure.
"Derby teachers are sick of the repeated slurring of schools, staff and pupils."