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Wakefield damned after Ofsted's latest local authority inspection

A local authority which receives almost double the national average level of funding has been criticised by Ofsted for its “ineffective” school improvement.

In a stinging letter published today, the watchdog claimed that attainment levels in Wakefield were “well below” national averages in reading, writing and maths, particularly in the primary sector.

The gap in achievement between the most advantaged and disadvantaged pupils in Wakefield’s academies and maintained schools is “too great” and, in the early years phase and Key Stage 2, is actually increasing, inspector Robert Pyner writes.

Around a third of the district’s schools are academies, including all but one of its secondaries. The letter also reveals that average per-student funding in Wakefield in 2012/13 was £66, compared to £36 nationally.

Despite high numbers of school improvement officers, the council’s school improvement arrangements “lack coherence”, Mr Pyner writes, due to “over-complicated” systems and schools not consistently understanding the need for cooperation between the best performers and their weaker counterparts.

John Wilson, the council’s corporate director for children and young people, acknowledged that the authority “could do better” and said it was working with its partner organisations to produce an action plan within 30 days.

He insisted that its monitoring and intervention work was “successful and our schools are improving, especially at secondary level”.

"We have been working with schools and academies to provide both challenge and support to increase the proportion of children who attend a good or outstanding school… We are determined to continue our schools’ support and improvement programme and we will use the findings of this Ofsted report to inform our action planning and ensure that children and young people in Wakefield are given the best start in life that we and our partners can provide,” Mr Wilson added.

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