Bradley Simmons, Ofsted’s Regional Director for the South West, on improvements to Swindon’s schools
Letter to Swindon Council
Many of you, particularly those with children, will remember that in November of last year I wrote an open letter to all those with responsibility for leading Swindon’s schools – headteachers, chairs of governors, chief executives of multi-academy trusts, the leader of Swindon Council and the Regional Schools Commissioner. The letter called on everyone involved in Swindon’s schools to do more to improve the quality of education for children in the area.
The decision to write a letter like that is never easy. I haven’t written many. I knew it would be controversial. But I felt the issues were too important to ignore. I stand by that letter. It started a public conversation about the quality of education in Swindon’s schools and I hope it continues to encourage more conversations.
Following the letter, I met with members of the Council, the Regional Schools Commissioner, chief executives of multi-academy trusts, local MPs and school leaders to discuss the best way forward. The sentiment in these meetings was positive. It was clear that everyone wants to make improvements.
Facing the challenge
I have also been able to visit eight of Swindon’s schools since November. I want take this opportunity to thank those schools for the warm welcome they gave me. It was fantastic to be able to talk to teachers on the ground and, of course, to meet some of the children.
The turnaround needed by schools in Swindon cannot happen in one year. I’m not expecting miracles, and neither should you. But what I found in the schools I visited was deeply encouraging. There is a wealth of knowledge and a good understanding of the challenges facing local schools.
This understanding and the willingness to work together across different schools are important first steps towards much needed improvements. The council and multi-academy trusts must continue these conversations.
We will have to wait until August to see how this year’s pupils have done in their national tests and exams. But I wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their constructive response to the challenge I gave them last year. It’s clear that everyone involved in education in Swindon understands the challenges we face.
Swindon pupils deserve the best, and I hope that in this year’s exam results we start to see the improvements everyone is working towards.
After a long, hard year, I hope that both teachers and pupils enjoy their summer break.
A form of this article was first published in the Swindon Advertiser.