Fifth of struggling schools turn down DfE support

Under-performing free schools were least likely to take up the government's offer of help, DfE research shows

A fifth of struggling schools eligible for free government support didn't take up the offer, research shows

One fifth of schools judged to be struggling under the Department for Education’s accountability measures do not take up the offer of free support, new figures reveal.

According to figures published by the Department for Education today, of the 1,657 schools eligible for support, 1,321 engaged – 80 per cent.


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The "school improvement offer" was announced by the government last November to assist struggling schools with help from a national leader of education (NLE).

Support for struggling schools

Eligibility for the support has so far been based on whether a school is below the floor standards, coasting or below the 16-18 minimum standards, based on 2017-18 performance data.

There are two separate tiers of support – within the first tier, schools receive up to three days’ free advice from a designated NLE.

Within tier two, which covers schools who have been rated "requires improvement" in their past two Ofsted inspections, schools receive the three days of free advice plus up to £16,000 of funded support “to address the fundamental needs identified by the NLE”.

The DfE said the figures provided a “snapshot” as of April 2019. “A take-up rate of 100 per cent would not be expected for the 2018-19 school improvement offer, because take-up is optional,” it said.

“There are several reasons that a school might turn down the offer, including already being given sufficient school improvement support or a change in circumstances (e.g. Ofsted rating) since being offered support.”

Just 60 per cent of struggling free schools accepted the support, compared with 80 per cent of academies and 81 per cent of maintained schools. 

Take-up of the support also varied across the regional school commissioner regions and school phase.

The highest percentage of schools engaging was in the North and East Midlands and Humber, where 90 per cent of schools accepted the support. The lowest proportion was in North West London and South Central, where only 69 per cent of schools took the support.

Eighty-three per cent of primary schools accepted the support, compared with just 74 per cent of secondary schools.

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