'These inspections have cemented our relations with the local authority'
AFTER sending a letter to Derby City Council on Wednesday, outlining the findings and conclusion of the inspection "swoop" on city schools, Mr Harford visited council officials yesterday.
Afterwards, he told the Derby Telegraph that together they had been working out what would happen next.
He said: "I have established that senior inspectors from Ofsted would be working closely with school improvements officers from Derby.
"I have asked the authority and the officers to identify key things which need to improve, particularly where they occur in three or four of the schools across the city.
"For example, if maths at key stage two appears to have weaknesses in two or three schools then this would be an area to work on using workshops and collaboration."
Mr Harford said the "swoop" on Derby schools – which would be the first of several across the country over the next few months – had been very useful in giving Ofsted a picture of what is going on in Derby.
He said: "This focused week gave us a look across the city's schools and I hope that the authority looks at all of them to decide what themes it wants to pursue.
"At a glance it has helped us to spot where the improvements, which the council said had started last autumn, are actually taking place.
"If we hadn't carried out the inspections in a short space of time, it could be several months before we had picked up the schools which need the extra help and need improvement."
Mr Harford said carrying out a telephone survey about how a further 12 "good" and "outstanding" schools felt about the council was also useful.
He said: "These are the schools which don't get inspected quite so frequently and so it was important to know how they perceive the authority.
"They gave us the impression that the relationships could be better but it was a mixed response, especially over whether they were involved in helping other schools."
But Mr Harford was unable to say whether the outcome from the inspections would trigger an inspection of the school improvements aspect of the council itself.
He said: "This kind of inspection is new and will not be formalised until April as it is currently being consulted on. There will be triggers that mean an inspection will take place but they have not been decided yet.
"But overall, I think that these inspections have moved the situation forward and the council knows what it needs to do. It has also cemented our relationship with the local authority.
"It realises that it has to support all schools in their improvement and is ultimately responsible for that."
Andrew Bunyan, the city council's strategic director for children and young people, said he was pleased that the inspections and the telephone interviews with head teachers recognised the recent improvements made in Derby.
He said: "The 10 inspections went well both for the schools and the local authority.
"All of the schools inspected came away with improved Ofsted judgments or maintained their grade.
"Comments on the local authority were in almost all cases very positive.
"We are committed to continuing our positive success story in Derby and addressing the areas for improvement identified by Mr Harford.
"With major changes in funding, the last few years have seen a big turnover of local authority staff in school improvement as well as other areas.
"Following appointments made in September 2012, we now have a permanent team of senior school improvement officers assigned to all secondary, primary and nursery schools in Derby."
Mr Bunyan confirmed that during the summer term, he and the school improvement team would be working with schools.
He said: "We will ensure that all senior leaders and governors buy into the local authority's vision for school improvement, because they have been part of its production.
"We are keen to give head teachers opportunities to shape the future of the service.
"I want to be sure what we do meets the needs of all schools, so we want their feedback. From where we are now, we must continue to build on our track record of improvements in the quality of education provided to all Derby pupils.
"Yes, we'll challenge under-performance, especially where disadvantaged groups are concerned. We'll use expertise from within and beyond the city to help all our schools – including the good ones – to improve."