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Dorset's education standards best in region - despite 'post-code lottery'

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: November 28, 2012

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An education troubleshooter will be appointed in the West after a report yesterday revealed a postcode lottery in standards.

Ofsted found wide variations in the quality of education and learning across council areas and regions,

The proportion of pupils at good or outstanding secondary schools ranged from 100 per cent to just one-in-five in Barnsley, Yorkshire.

All youngsters in 10 areas including Torbay, the Isle of Wight, and six London boroughs were at schools rated as good or outstanding.

The West’s best figures were in Herefordshire and Bath & North East Somerset at 90 per cent, with Dorset and North Somerset both at 80, Wiltshire 78, Devon 74 and Gloucestershire 73 per cent.

Somerset was rated at 64 per cent, the same as Bristol, with South Gloucestershire on 54 per cent and Swindon 53 per cent.

Meanwhile, the statistics for the number of primary school pupils at good or outstanding schools varied from 92 per cent for Camden in London, to 42 per cent in Coventry.

Dorset had the West’s best performance at 83 per cent, followed by South Gloucestershire (78 per cent), B&NES (77), Swindon (74) and Wiltshire (73 per cent).

Both Gloucestershire and Devon scored 72 per cent, Herefordshire 70, Somerset 65, North Somerset 62 and Bristol 58 per cent.

The South West will have its own Ofsted regional director, with eight being created across England. The watchdog yesterday launched a recruitment drive and from January the new regional directors will spearhead improvements and tackle under-performance.

The South West regional director will lead a team of inspectors who will monitor, challenge and support schools that are not meeting required standards.

Ofsted Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw, who published his first annual report yesterday, said leadership was the key to improvement.

“We have found huge variations in the performance of schools across different local authority areas,” he said.

“If we aspire, as a nation, to move to a world-leading system, we have to reduce these serious inequities across the country.

“The eight regional directors will be my voice in the regions. They will challenge and support in equal measure and will not walk away from the institutions we inspect until they improve.”

The report found that around 73 per cent of South West primary schools are rated good or outstanding, above the national average of 69 per cent.

It said 71 per cent of the region’s secondaries are good or outstanding, five points above the figure for England as a whole.

Sir Michael said more than two million children go to schools that are not good enough, and with primaries there is no link between how rich or poor an area is.

“It is absolutely a postcode lottery and we are never going to get a world class system unless we reduce these wide variations,” he said.

Most primary schools are still run by local councils, although around half of secondaries are now academies, meaning they are free from local authority control.

Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg said half a million more children were in better schools because of a decade of investment under Labour.

“We need more and better teachers and headteachers but under Cameron’s watch 10,000 teachers have quit,” he said.

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