WEST Berkshire is the seventh worst local authority in the country for the proportion of schools and academies that “re-quires improvement” according to figures compiled by the Department of Education.
The Schools and Academies Data released last week show that, as at December 31, schools across the district graded by Ofsted as “in need of improvement” also had the second highest proportion in the South East, including London.
In the district, 28 per cent of schools and academies – representing 23 schools out of a total of 81 – fell into this category following inspections by the country’s education regulator. In the South East only Bracknell Forest has a higher proportion, at 33 per cent.
Twelve schools, or 15 per cent, were judged as “Outstanding” with the majority of schools achieving a “Good” rating – 46 schools, or 57 per cent, which is below the national average. None were rated as inadequate.
The Liberal Democrats prospective parliamentary candidate for Newbury, Judith Bunting, said that the reports were “disappointing”.
She said: “I am meeting with the Association of Teachers and Lecturers later this week and will be asking what they think might be the cause and what they think could turn matters around.
“I worry that the reduction in school support offices over recent years is still showing an effect.”
She went on to say that the recruitment of teaching staff might also be a problem, made worse by “the high cost of housing in our area”.
“We need a little inspired thinking. If more affordable housing could be released on to market... it could help hugely. Or maybe West Berkshire Council could look at introducing shared-ownership schemes for teachers, as are used in other parts of the country.”
Downplaying the figures, New-bury MP Richard Benyon said: “We have to be very careful not to misinterpret these figures to give parents the wrong impression of local school performance.
“We have schools that are in the top 25 per cent in the country for Foundation Stage, Key Stage 1, Key Stage 2, GCSE 5 A*-C grades including English and mathematics, and A-level scores.
“We also outperform the rest of the country at secondary level with a higher percentage attending a school judged good or better than good. We also have a local education authority that is known for its intolerance of any failure by any school to perform.”
The head of education at West Berkshire Council, Ian Pearson, said: “Like any such data, this is a snapshot in time, but I am delighted that it shows no West Berkshire school was judged inadequate.
“Of course, one of the problems about Ofsted, as raised by many heads, is the inspection framework does not give sufficient credit for all the extraordinary creative things that go on in schools.”
Mr Pearson added that although secondary schools in West Berkshire were performing better – with 77.8 per cent of them being judged good or above, “some of our primary schools will need to improve outcomes for certain groups of children, which are given greater emphasis under the new, harder Ofsted inspection framework.
“We have a huge ambition for our schools and are investing in school improvement, with a target of all West Berkshire schools being judged good or better by 2019.”