Failing state of Doncaster’s schools

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More than a third of Doncaster schools are failing or require improvement, according to figures from inspection watchdog Ofsted.

A new report provides a snapshot of the effectiveness of all the town’s schools as judged by Ofsted at the end of 2013.

Five schools were ‘failing’ and were in special measures, while 43 ‘require improvement’.

Overall, 39 per cent were failing to meet standards that would have seen them rated as good or outstanding. Of the town’s 123 schools, 21 are ‘outstanding’ and 54 are ‘good’.

The figures mean Doncaster is lagging behind both regional and national averages – across the country 21 per cent are in the bottom two categories, while for Yorkshire and the Humber the figure is 26. Doncaster also has the poorest rated schools in the region, with only 61 per cent achieving a good or outstanding rating.

But schools in the town have seen a slight improvement – figures for August 2012 showed at that time 40 per cent of schools failed to reach the two top grades.

Eleanor Brazil, director of the Children and Young People’s Service at Doncaster Council, said the overall picture of education in Doncaster changes weekly and schools are currently showing an improving trend in comparison with the published figures.

“We are receiving many positive comments from Ofsted in their regular reports on schools judged to be requiring improvement about the progress those schools are making.

“The council is continuing to work with schools particularly those that require improvement to support them in delivering action plans,” she said.

“Schools are now being inspected by Ofsted in line with a revised inspection framework which places high expectations on schools to be delivering excellent teaching as the government aims to drive up standards across the country. Some of our schools have seen the judgement go down since their previous inspection, others have stayed the same and others have improved.”

Toll Bar Primary School is one of the town’s schools performing well and has maintained its good rating from Ofsted, following a recent inspection. Inspectors said the quality of the teaching at the primary school was good, and praised pupils for being ‘well behaved’ and taking pride in their work.

According to Ofsted, a strength of the teaching is the good use made of marking and the challenging targets set for pupils.

Headteacher Jill Northwood said she was extremely pleased with the inspection.

She said: “It’s a team effort from staff, pupils, parents and governors.”

The school has been told it has not been given an outstanding rating because teachers do not use questioning skills well enough to enable pupils understanding of a subject, and pupils do not write at length in English often enough.

Ofsted toughened up its regime last year by scrapping its third category, previously called ‘satisfactory’.

Instead schools in that grade are now labelled as ‘requiring improvement’ and are subject to scrutiny. Ofsted says the system is not just aimed at schools with inadequate standards, but those who may be ‘coasting’.