Isle of Wight Council is still failing to promote high standards in the island’s schools, according to a government order that leaves its children’s services department under the leadership of an outside official.
The direction from the Department for Education, dated November 28 and published today, comes only months after the chairman of Ofsted resigned after branding the island a poor white "ghetto" that suffers from "inbreeding”.
David Hoare quit in August, following an uproar over the comments he used when linking educational under-performance to the social problems he claimed the island suffered from.
It is the second time since 2013 that the DfE has issued a direction to the local authority because of concerns about standards of education, as well as children’s social care.
The latest direction says the council is “failing to perform some or all of its education functions”.
“Whilst there have been improvements, including an ‘effective’ judgement by Ofsted of the school improvement function (June 2014), key stage 2 and key stage 4 attainment in the council’s maintained schools remains below national averages,” it adds.
According to the latest Ofsted data, 33 per cent of the island’s schools are rated "requires improvement" or "inadequate", compared with 11 per cent across England.
And following this summer’s GCSE exams, the provisional Progress 8 score for the area was “below average”, while 48 per cent of children at the end of primary school reached the expected standard, compared with a national average of 52 per cent.
The direction orders the council to continue an arrangement dating from June 2013, which sees Hampshire County Council’s director of children’s services perform the same role at Isle of Wight Council, with responsibility for appointing all senior staff in children’s services and education services.
The order, which will remain in force until June 2018, also tells the council to regularly assess how it is performing its education functions, take “appropriate action” to make necessary improvements and cooperate with schools seeking to become academies, or being encouraged to convert by the government.
These actions will be monitored at regular termly meetings between the council and DfE officials.
Jonathan Bacon, Isle of Wight Council's leader and executive member for children’s services, said: “The directive from government regarding children’s services on the Isle of Wight has always been for a period of five years, to 2018, in order to improve the service to ‘good’ in Ofsted terms.
"We have seen strong improvement through our partnership with Hampshire County Council, much faster than in comparable authorities. The next window of opportunity for a published inspection to show that we are ‘good’ is not until 2018; we expect this to be the findings.
“However, the Isle of Wight Council has been working hard with its community and partners, including Ofsted, to raise standards and attainment across all of the Island’s schools; education on the Isle of Wight is improving. There is now only one primary school on the island that is in a category [rated 'inadequate' by Ofsted] and no secondary schools; reducing the percentage of schools judged to be 'inadequate' in 2013 from 25 per cent down to just 2 per cent. Results and outcomes are getting better."