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Damning verdict on district's primaries

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Latest Ofsted figures put West Berkshire near the bottom of the table

West Berkshire pupils are less likely to go to a “good” or better primary school than children in almost every other local authority in the country.

Damning new figures released by education watchdog Ofsted this week placed the district eighth from bottom, ranked 144 out of 152 local authorities, for the proportion of primary school children attending a school ranked either “good” or “outstanding”.

According to the figures, in West Berkshire 69 per cent of pupils attend a school which has been judged either “good” or “outstanding” by Ofsted – a figure far below the rest of the South at 85 per cent, and the North at 84 per cent.

Nearby Bracknell Forest was the only other local authority in Berkshire to perform worse – ranked 148th with 64 per cent of its pupil population attending the lower-ranked schools.

Secondary schools in West Berkshire are also struggling and have seen the single largest drop since last year’s rankings out of any other authority in the South East.

The district’s secondary school pupil population is ranked 100th with a proportion of 73 per cent of its pupils in good or outstanding schools, a drop of six per cent compared to the previous year.

West Berkshire Council’s executive member for education Dominic Boeck (Con, Aldermaston) said: “While it is disappointing that our percentage of good and outstanding schools is not higher at this point in time, school improvement is a clear priority for the council and extra resources have been made available to ensure all schools move to good within the life of this administration.

“Our systems of monitoring, challenge and support are rigorous and we will continue to work with heads and governing bodies to deliver on this pledge.”

The head of education at West Berkshire Council, Ian Pearson, also called the figures disappointing, but argued that they were now out of date and more recent figures showed a higher proportion than the tables released this week.

He said: “Judging the quality of schools is complex, but it is interesting to note that since we have introduced a focussed and well-resourced school improvement strategy, some two-and-a-half years ago, no school has been judged inadequate, which is exceptional compared to other local authorities nationally and locally.

“The current administration’s manifesto pledge on school performance is clear, with an aim for all West Berkshire schools to become good or better as graded by Ofsted.

“Our school improvement arrangements are sound and rigorous.

“Six schools currently judged to require improvement are due to be inspected by July 2016 and depending on Ofsted’s capacity to carry out inspections in a timely fashion, we would predict 80 per cent of schools good or better by July 2016 and 89 per cent by July 2017.”

He also praised the high level of attainment, particularly at secondary school level and added that 100 per cent of pupil referral units were judged “good” and 100 per cent of special schools and nurseries were “outstanding”.

Across the South East region, the findings released as part of Ofsted’s annual report showed that, as a whole, the proportion of pupils attending a good or better primary school has in fact risen by five percentage points, in spite of West Berk-shire remaining below the average.

The inspection figures compiled by Ofsted are based on inspections that took place between September 1, 2014, and August 31, 2015, and where the inspection report was published by October 5, 2015.

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