Top professor enlisted to help struggling schools

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A leading professor of education has been brought in to help turn around the fortunes of Blackpool’s struggling secondary schools.

Prof Sonia Blandford has been appointed as chairman of the new Blackpool Challenge Board, set up to bring together Blackpool Council, and all academy heads and sponsors to work together on improving secondary education.

Council bosses have hailed the appointment as a “coup” for the resort.

Coun Ivan Taylor, cabinet member for education on Blackpool Council, said: “Professor Blandford is very well established.

“It’s a coup, I think, for her to come to Blackpool to take on this challenge.”

Professor Blandford is founder and CEO of charity Achievements For All, is a senior research fellow at Oxford University, and an advisor to the UK government and European Commission.

Coun Taylor added: “The board will develop our plans for the future, particularly to raise the attainment of our children at GCSE level.”

The board held its first meeting earlier this month for schools to share knowledge and expertise, set universal standards, and will hold weight to bring in national funding or help where needed.

The news comes as figures released by independent inspectorate Ofsted show that Blackpool schools fall well behind their North West and national counterparts when it came to ratings issued up to the end of 2014.

Of the 35 schools visited by inspectors up to that point, two were outstanding, 26 were good, five required improvement, and two were placed in special measures.

In the North West, Blackpool had the lowest percentage of schools rated outstanding - six per cent.

After an April inspection Highfurlong School, on Blackpool Old Road, maintained its outstanding rating. Park Community Academy, on Whitegate Drive, is the resort’s only other oustanding school, rated so in 2009.

But Blackpool had the highest percentage of schools placed in special measures in that year – also six per cent.

Both Montgomery High school, Bispham, which was the resort’s first converter academy, and Highfield Humanities College, South Shore, which is now the only school overseen by the council, were placed in special measures - the lowest ranking for schools by Ofsted.

Coun Taylor said: “We’re all optimistic. We’re not in a good position, but we can move forward.”