Regional disparities could hamper efforts to turn around struggling schools, report finds

20th April 2017 at 10:15
The report highlighted the proportion of under-performing schools in each region.
NFER researchers question whether some regional schools commissioners have the capacity to help schools

Disparities between the number of under-performing schools in different parts of the country could hamper efforts to support them in some regions, a new report has warned.

An analysis by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), published today, found that 21.2 per cent of schools in the East Midlands and the Humber were under-performing, compared to 16.1 per cent in the North of England.

The authors said this highlighted the different challenges faced by the eight regional school commissioners (RSCs), who are responsible for taking action when schools are not good enough.

Number of under-performing schools varies

They said: "These disparities in workload could affect the RSCs' ability to tackle under-performance as effectively as is needed.”

The report added: "There are differences between RSC regions in the number of schools with serious under-performance issues.

"Lancashire and West Yorkshire has the most with 109 such schools, which is more than double the lowest RSC region, South East England and south London, which has only 50."

The study found that, overall, the number of schools with low Ofsted ratings, or who are falling below the floor standard, has dropped since RSCs first took up office in 2014, although it is unclear if this is due to the introduction of these commissioners or other factors.

Schools were considered under-performing if they were judged by Ofsted to be inadequate or requiring improvement, if they fell below the government's floor standard, or if they met the government's definition of a "coasting" school.

The report also found stark differences in the capacity of multi-academy trusts to expand and take on the most seriously struggling schools.

'The government should be circumspect'

It said the Lancashire and West Yorkshire region faces the most serious shortfall in available sponsors, although most other RSCs could face supply shortfalls when matching schools in need with available capacity.

Lesley Duff, NFER’s director of research, said: “What is becoming evident at a regional level, as at other levels within the school system, is that reforms take time to feed through and for the full implications and impact of their implementation to become clear.

“The government should be circumspect about introducing further change and any proposals for change should be based firmly on available evidence.”

A Department for Education spokeswoman said there are 1.8 million more children in good or outstanding schools than in 2010.

"As the report acknowledges, we continue to build sponsor capacity at a national level but recognise there is more work to do in particular areas," she said.

"We are continuing to work with the school system to address those challenges."

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