Good education ‘left to chance’ in most schools

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Getting a good or outstanding education in Blackpool remains a ‘postcode lottery’ or even ‘left to chance’ according to the schools watchdog.

Ofsted, the independent inspectorate for schools in England, has outlined how school success is “left to chance” for too many children, as Blackpool falls in the bottom three for its schools provision across the whole of the North West.

Its annual reports shows that while four in five children in the resort go to a good or outstanding primary school, when they move up to secondary school less than two in five will go to a good school.

In Blackpool only 38 per cent of secondary school age children attend a good school, which is down from 46 per cent last year.

And there are no outstanding secondary schools in the area.

The report also features stark statistics on how behaviour in Blackpool schools compares to schools nationally - 50 per cent of Blackpool’s schools are deemed to have poor behaviour, compared to just 15 per cent across the rest of the country.

Nationally, the percentage of fixed-term exclusions from secondary schools stands at 6.8, compared to 11.5 per cent in Blackpool.

The report reads: “Educational achievement is left to chance for too many children.

“In areas like Blackpool, the cycle of deprivation and low aspiration continues to lead to low achievement at secondary level.”

Coun Ivan Taylor, cabinet member for education on Blackpool Council, said that a dip in GCSE results, both in Blackpool and nationally, had impacted on the ratings for schools too, as well as the resort’s known social problems.

He added: “Improving schools is not something that happens overnight but I believe we can improve the situation.”

He said schemes such as ‘Headstart’, to improve the mental health of secondary school age children, would have an impact on achievement and standards in schools.

However, there was good news for the resort’s primary schools.

In Blackpool, 81 per cent of pupils attend a good or better primary school, and this has risen by five per cent from last year, in keeping with Ofsted’s statement that there is “a steady rise in standards”.

The report’s release yesterday came in the middle of a week-long visit by Ofsted bosses to look into school improvement in Blackpool, visiting schools and education bosses.

Coun Taylor added: “It’s a pretty intense examination.”

Just under half (46 per cent) of the 41 schools in Blackpool are now academies, twice the national average, and four times the average for the remainder of the North West.

Coun Taylor said this academisation meant schools had been distracted from teaching and learning.

He said: “We’ve seen a lot of change and that’s made a big difference.

“That programme did cause people to take their eye off the ball because so much energy went into that.”

In concluding the North West report, Ofsted bosses have said: “If we are to see major change in the region, then the academisation of schools and the establishment of multi-academy trusts need to have a greater impact on improving prospects”.

For schools in Wyre and Fylde the Ofsted report was a different story, outlining how 81 per cent of children go to a good or outstanding secondary school in Lancashire.

And 87 per cent of children in Lancashire go to good or better primary schools, higher than the North West average.

Despite the authority overseeing a high number of good and outstanding schools, a spokesman for Lancashire County Council said only: “We can confirm we have received the report and are assessing its implications.”