Report shows challenge facing Blackpool’s education leaders

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Blackpool’s secondary school pupils are losing out in a “postcode lottery” according to alarming new figures which reveal half of youngsters in the resort attend only satisfactory or inadequate schools.

The resort’s secondary schools performance is falling well below that of many of their counterparts across the North West, a new report released by Ofsted shows.

The North West regional report for 2012/13, the first report of its kind, highlights stark contrasts between Blackpool schoolchildren’s learning compared to other areas in the region.

Blackpool ranks 21 out of 23 local authorities in the North West for the percentage of primary and secondary pupils attending good or outstanding schools.

Just 48 per cent of teenagers in the resort achieve five or more good passes at GCSEs, compared to up to 72 per cent in areas like Trafford.

And three of the resort’s schools have been labelled as inadequate this year alone – Bispham, Collegiate and Palatine. The resort has no ‘outstanding’ secondary schools.

The transition between primary and secondary school for youngsters in Blackpool is described as a “watershed” moment and children’s chances of going to a good school is a “postcode lottery”.

The Ofsted report reads: “For too many pupils reaching the age of 11 can mark the end of access to a good education. In Blackpool children have a less than one in two chance of attending a good or outstanding secondary school.”

Council bosses said they were aware of the issues – and insisted they were putting steps in place to improve performance.

According to the report, 75 per cent of children in the resort go to a good or outstanding primary school, but this drops to just 47 per cent for secondary school.

By contrast, in the Lancashire County Council area, which encompasses Wyre and Fylde, 80 per cent of pupils attend a good or outstanding primary school and 77 per cent for secondary school.

But the inspection body has found that primary schools and further education in the North West are among the best in the country.

It shows 83 per cent of primary school children are going to good or outstanding primary schools in the region, up five per cent compared to their national counterparts.

And these figures have been backed up by league tables results released on Thursday which show Level Four results for Key Stage Two pupils are improving overall.

Nevertheless, union bosses have said reports of this nature do little to help schools at a time when there is a “climate of fear” in education.

John Girdley, national executive member for the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) for the Fylde coast, said: “Ofsted certainly do nothing to make schools better.

“They cause huge problems and they don’t take into account the huge social issues that are going on in schools in the area, they’re bound by Michael Gove demanding that schools reach certain results which are almost impossible to achieve.

“There’s nothing there about school improvement.”

Council bosses have pledged to do all they can to improve schooling for children.

Coun Ivan Taylor (left), cabinet member for children’s services at Blackpool Council, said: “We are working to improve secondary schools too and over the last nine years the number of children receiving good GCSE results has increased regularly.

“However there is more that we can and will do. This involves directly helping teachers to deliver maths and English lessons that will help children leave school with the essential skills needed to set them up for life.

“We are committed to improving education and will stop at nothing to make sure that Blackpool pupils receive the best possible education.”

John Topping (right), acting headteacher of Collegiate High School, on Blackpool Old Road, which was rated as inadequate, said schools cannot contest Ofsted reports but added inspectors see only a snapshot of work done.

He added: “In light of Collegiate’s recent Ofsted report myself and my colleagues are working closely with Tony Nicholson (From Hodgson Academy) and the Fylde Coast Teaching Alliance to formulate and address the key priorities which were raised by Ofsted.

“By and large you can’t dispute what they find but it is a snapshot of the life and work of the school.

“Having been in the town for 16 years I’m of the mind all our high schools have strengths and there’s a constant search for improvement.”

Mr Topping added the school also works with the local authority, other schools and families in order to achieve good results for pupils.

He said: “We are working extremely hard to raise attainment across both key stages and alongside improving the quality of teaching.

“In order to do this we are working closely with local authority school improvement officers and with individuals like Tony Nicholson.

“We work closely with families hoping they will share the same expectations we have.”

Despite the findings of the report many of Blackpool’s high schools have seen impressive increases in levels of attainment in recent years.

GCSE results have been going up steadily year-on-year for sometime.

However, historic problems with deprivation and transcience continue. Thirty per cent of the resort’s children – more than 9,000 – are classed as living in poverty.

One of the measures introduced in Blackpool schools to raise standards has been staff from the National Maths Partnership going into schools to work with teachers and pupils for the last two years.

This has so far seen a four per cent rise in schoolchildren achieving an A* to C grade in the subject.

Now the council is looking to bring in something similar for English classes.

And the headteacher of one of the Fylde coast’s top performing schools, Hodgson Academy in Poulton, has also talked about the work being done to raise standards across the area.

The Ofsted report found there to be “large numbers” of outstanding leaders in the North West, including National Leaders of Education, and found that many schools have improved through school-to-school support.

Tony Nicholson, Hodgson Academy’s executive principal, said: “Through the Fylde Coast Teaching School Alliance, Hodgson Academy is proud to be able to offer help and 
guidance to schools that 
are on a journey of improvement.

“We have been involved with this work for a considerable number of years now and we have built up our teaching and leadership capacity to enable more of this work to take place.

“Currently, we are working in a small number of Blackpool schools offering support and advice to leadership teams and professional development for teachers.

“The aim is simple, to improve the quality of teaching and improve the quality of leadership.

“The net result must be improvements in student outcomes.

“We do not do this from any political or ideological stand point; we simply want to play our part in ensuring all children receive the education they are entitled to.”

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