10 Dec 2014

Where are England’s worst performing secondary schools?

As the chief inspector of schools warns that progress in primary schools is being undermined by a stalling of improvement in secondaries, Channel 4 News looks at some of the worst areas.

In a speech to launch Ofsted’s latest inspection results, Sir Michael Wilshaw warned: “The nation should be worried about a growing divide between primary and secondary schools.

“In too many cases, pupils are leaving their primary schools with good literacy and numeracy skills, confident and eager to learn. But the culture they encounter at too many secondary schools often demotivates and discourages them”.

Across England as a whole 71 per cent of secondary schools are good or outstanding. But in some places the picture is much worse.

Sir Michael pointed out that in 13 local authority areas – mostly in the north of England – children have a less than 50 per cent chance of attending a good or outstanding school. He concluded that “far too many struggling schools are left unsupported, deprived of the expertise and advice they desperately need.”

Secondary school lesson (Getty)

Isle of Wight – a ‘priority issue’

The worst in England.

Just 17 per cent of secondary school children on the Isle of Wight go to a good or outstanding school. The local council, which has gone into partnership with Hampshire County Council to improve schools on the island, told Channel 4 News school improvement “remains a major priority”.

St Helens – schools commissioner appointed

Of St Helens pupils, 35 per cent go to a good or better secondary school. Andy Dempsey, director of children and young peoples’ services, told Channel 4 News: “We are working intensively with schools to improve this.” St Helens council had become one of the first to appoint a local schools commissioner to chair the St Helens school improvement board to “robustly hold schools to account.”

Hartlepool – improvement soon?

In Hartlepool too, just 35 per cent of students go to a good or outstanding school – no improvement on the 2013 figure. But a council spokesman told Channel 4 News: “we are investing £1.6m into driving up education standards” and predicted “all secondary schools in Hartlepool will be rated good or outstanding within the next 12 to 18 months.”

Oldham – ‘failing too many’

The latest Ofsted figures show the number of pupils going to a good or outstanding school is 36 per cent in 2014. Councillor Amanda Chadderton, cabinet member for education, told Channel 4 News “we’re very clear that education is failing too many children in Oldham”.

Under the chairmanship of former Education Secretary Estelle Morris, in June the council launched the Oldham Education and Skills Commission, which will report next summer. Ms Chadderton said “we gave it a very clear remit to root out unpalatable facts and bring back a report that doesn’t hold back on harsh truths.”

Blackpool – more urgency needed

In 2014, 38 per cent of Blackpool students went to good or outstanding schools.

Of the seven secondary schools in the Blackpool local authority area, six are academies and just one is under local authority control – Highfield Humanities College. But despite having little competition for council oversight and intervention, the November 2014 Ofsted inspection of Highfield found that the school was inadequate and put it in special measures. Inspectors report that school improvement planning is ineffective: “it does not reflect the urgency of improvement that is needed”.

Bradford – ‘work to do’

In Bradford 40 per cent of students go to a good or better secondary schools. Michael Jameson, strategic director of children’s services told Channel 4 News the council’s new strategy had “deliberately ambitious targets”, but acknowledging “thre is a lot of work to do.”

Derbyshire – secondary schools ‘an issue’

In Derbyshire 42 per cent of pupils attended a good or better school in 2014, down from 55 per cent a year earlier. Councillor Kevin Gillott, cabinet member for children and young people, told Channel 4 News that he had recognised “an issue with our secondary schools” when he took over his role in 2013. But he said “we want all schools to be good or better by 2017,” adding that the situation had improved by 4 per cent in the three months since the Ofsted report was compiled.

East Riding – improved rankings

The performance of secondary schools in the East Riding of Yorkshire authority has improved; now 46 per cent good or better, up from 38 in 2013. The council anticipates that improvement will continue: Mike Furbank, head of education and schools, told Channel 4 News that “better progress at all key stages, will begin to impact on inspection results in the next few years.”

Barnsley – ‘effective leadership’

Of the secondary school pupils in Barnsley 48 per cent attend good or better schools, a massive increase on just 23 per cent in 2013. Councillor Tim Cheetham, cabinet spokesperson for people (achieving potential), told Channel 4 News that new leadership teams have been appointed, and inspections were reflecting that: “we have leadership across 10 secondary schools that is strong, effective and where the evaluation of pupils’ learning is accurate.”

And the best?

Six council areas provide 100 per cent of their pupils with secondary schools that are either good or outstanding. Five are in London (Haringey, Hounslow, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster) and the sixth is Rutland.