It is a ‘matter of time’ until efforts to overhaul elements of Blackpool’s struggling education system start paying off, education chiefs promised today.
While the resort boasts an above average rate of achievement at primary school level, its secondary schools were singled out for criticism in Ofsted’s latest annual report, published yesterday.
The education watchdog’s ‘state of the nation’ report revealed the number of primary schools in Blackpool rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ has risen to 90 per cent.
But just one of the six secondary schools it looked at, St Mary’s Catholic Academy, was rated ‘good’. None are outstanding.
However, Andy Mellor, headteacher at St Nicholas’ C E Primary School in Marton and vice-president of the National Association of Headteachers, warned the report was already out of date.
Back in October, Unity Academy – which takes pupils aged five to 16 and is not listed by Ofsted as a secondary school – was awarded a ‘good’ rating.
Mr Mellor said: “Since the report was generated I think our secondary schools have moved on and we have got another outstanding primary school.
“The danger is we go into a tail spin, thinking the situation is what it was 12 months ago. It’s a matter of time – I genuinely think things are on the move.”
Four Blackpool secondary schools – Aspire Academy, South Shore Academy, St George’s School and Montgomery High School – are rated as ‘requires improvement’. Highfield Leadership Academy has not been inspected since converting to an academy.
Lancashire County Council, which covers Fylde and Wyre, has seen the percentage of its schools getting the top ratings slip. But the county still has some of the best schools around with 94 per cent of primaries and 77 per cent of secondary schools rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’.
Yet pupils in Blackpool primaries outperform those in the rest of the county, the report found.
Despite having above average results at the end of Year Six, pupils in the resort fall well behind their peers by the end of Year 11, with only Knowsley in the North West having worse key stage four achievement figures.
Ofsted North West director, Andrew Cook said: “The North West is a region of stark contrasts. Some places are serving their children well. This can be compared with only one of six schools in Blackpool. I want to see all pupils receiving a good standard of education, regardless of where they live.”
But Mr Mellor, whose own primary school is rated ‘outstanding’, said yesterday’s report was just ‘one point in time’.
He said to work like the Primary Futures initiative launched across Blackpool last year to improved youngsters’ aspirations is having an impact but will take time to filter through to all levels. He added: “We recognise there’s still a lot of work to do.
“The higher these children come into primary school, the better. When these kids go on to secondary school they hit the ground running. There are signs of gradual improvement.
“Improving schools is constantly developing. No school is there – it’s part of a longer term journey.”
Coun Kathryn Benson, cabinet member for schools and learning at Blackpool Council, said: “GCSE outcomes represent only a small part of the educational picture in Blackpool. The journey that we are on, collectively across Blackpool is seeing significant successes.
“At the early years foundation stage, providers and schools have closed the performance gap. With 96.9 per cent of Blackpool pupils attending a good or better primary or special school, this will translate into significant improvements in GCSE outcomes over the next few years.
“High profile, successful multi-academy trusts are working in and transforming Blackpool secondary schools, alongside Blackpool School Improvement Board, but they must be given time to embed continued improvement.
“We have laid the foundations and as we improve the education that our children receive at all stages, we will see results at GCSE level in Blackpool rise.”
Lancashire County Council’s cabinet member for children, young people and schools Coun Susie Charles said “I’m really proud of these results.
“They are a testament to the high quality of the teaching in our schools and the commitment of pupils and their families to learning.”