Sunderland schools ‘constantly strive to improve’

Councillors Pauline Wood, Robert Oliver and Pat Smith.
Councillors Pauline Wood, Robert Oliver and Pat Smith.
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EDUCATION bosses say Sunderland’s schools strive to improve regardless of their Ofsted rating, after plans for a shake-up were announced.

Education watchdog Ofsted wants to change the “satisfactory” rating to “requires improvement”, saying too many schools are coasting and should be pushing to get the higher level of “good”.

Coun Pat Smith, Sunderland City Council’s portfolio holder for children and learning city, said: “All our schools constantly strive to improve. All those presently rated by Ofsted inspectors as satisfactory have been subject to regular internal monitoring to ensure that standards are achieved, maintained and where possible improved.

“The education aspirations we share in Sunderland is that all our schools should be good schools and are working hard with school leaders to achieve this.”

Pauline Wood, headteacher at Grange Park Primary School, in Monkwearmouth, which has an “outstanding” Ofsted rating, said driving up standards is more than choosing which words to use.

She said: “If the Government wants to eliminate coasting schools, they also need to look at ‘good’ coasting schools where the children have a strong work ethic and good parental support, so will always achieve Ofsted’s markers for good attendance and good attainment.

“Some satisfactory schools are constantly fighting big issues, which the schools cannot fix, such as poor attendance and high percentages of pupils with special educational needs, which count in the school’s data judged by Ofsted.”

Coun Robert Oliver, Tory spokesman for education in Sunderland, welcomed the change, saying: “Far too many children are taught in satisfactory classes which do not do enough to stimulate and stretch them, thus leading to outcomes that are less than they could be.

“In Sunderland the most recent judgements by Ofsted reveal many good schools, but also a higher than average percentage of satisfactory or inadequate schools which need to improve.”

But, Mike Johnson, representing the Sunderland NASUWT (National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers), said although the tough talk by the Government may have appeal, the reality is that it has nothing to do with raising standards.

He said: “Instead, it is about ratcheting up pressure on schools, without providing the support and resources they need to assist them in securing further improvements.

“This announcement will encourage a culture of vicious management practices within schools which will have a profoundly negative effect on the workforce and children and young people alike.”

Out of the city’s 125 schools and pupil referral units, 32 per cent are graded as satisfactory. For a list of these schools, visit www.sunderlandecho.com

Twitter: @SunEchoSchools