Ofsted and a political agenda

I have a mate who has taught at a FE College in the area for approaching 25 years. He is an excellent teacher who knows his subject- History extremely well. In fact it’s a subject of some annoyance to him that he has to spend a great deal of time addressing large gaps in the knowledge of the students such as pointing out where Germany is on a map before he can run a class on the First World War. He told me the other day that he is expecting the College to fail its inspection. One factor in the apparent down grading of the number of students leaving as a consequence of EMA being removed a consequence of coalition policy and little to do with any systemic failing in the college. Continue reading

Crescent Children’s Centre judged as outstanding by Ofsted

A children’s centre has become the first in the city to be judged as outstanding by government inspectors.

The Crescent Children’s Centre in Meir, run by Stoke-on-Trent City Council, has been given the glowing accolade by Ofsted. It means that The Crescent site is now only the second in the entire country to be home to a primary school, children’s centre and pre-school nursery that are all designated ‘outstanding’ after separate Ofsted inspections.

The centre was subjected to a rigorous two-day inspection in November, during which inspectors looked at all aspects of its work. They spoke to staff, parents, carers, volunteers, local schools, members of the centre’s advisory board and partners including an adult training organisation and a voluntary organisation.

The inspectors observed the centre’s work and looked at a range of relevant documents to find evidence of the impact it has on the children and families it serves. This included assessing how the centre helped parents, prospective parents and young children to access services, and made sure they benefited from the services offered; and how the centre improved the wellbeing of young children.

Out if 18 areas inspected, The Crescent was judged ‘outstanding’ in 17 and ‘good’ in one.

Councillor Debra Gratton, cabinet member for children’s services, said:

This is one of the most glowing Ofsted inspections I have ever read, and it is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the centre its staff, parents and volunteers that they have achieved such a fabulous report. Ofsted is only beginning to start inspecting children’s centres in the same way it does schools, and The Crescent has set the benchmark for others to follow. To have the children’s centre, Crescent Primary School and The Crescent Pre-School Nursery all on the same site, delivering outstanding services, is a credit to the city and shows parents and families that their children are in good hands.

The detailed 10-page Ofsted report praised the centre’s strong leadership and management, its success in engaging parents in the Meir area and described the effect its services have on families as ‘excellent’ and ‘outstanding’.

The report said parents and carers had high levels of understanding regarding the development of their child. The report described the centre’s processes for business planning and service delivery as ‘exemplary’, that parents and carers ‘feel they are listened to, respected and not judged’, that safeguarding is ‘a high priority and embedded exceptionally well in all systems’, and that children with disabilities are ‘particularly well-supported’. The report also said that outreach services have improved accessibility of hard to reach groups and that there has been an increase in the registration of families with different nationalities.

Inspectors told parents

You are rightly very proud of your centre as it is outstanding in almost everything it does. The way the centre works with its partners is particularly impressive. It has meant they reach and support all of you in a way that has given you the skills and confidence to support your children in their learning as well as contribute to improvements in the centre. The people in charge of running your centre are doing an excellent job. They are continually increasing their reach to target groups such as fathers. We have every confidence that they will continue to carry on improving the quality of services.

Tracy Jackson OBE, locality manager for children’s centres in the south of the city, including The Crescent, said

We are delighted with the Ofsted inspectors’ endorsements and comments. The ‘outstanding’ status is a tribute to the hard work of the staff, parents and volunteers. It was a detailed inspection which looked at everything we do and I am delighted that the findings clearly recognise the difference the centre is making to children and families.

Children’s centres were established to bridge the attainment gap for the most disadvantaged children. Ofsted assess the leadership and management of a centre and make sure it is having an impact and providing the right level of support for families.

This outstanding result, and the passion and knowledge our parents showed when talking to inspectors, shows we are making a difference and giving the children of Meir a better start in life.

Last year staff at The Crescent were named the UK Children’s Centre Team of the Year by national charity Together for Children.

Parent Katrina Danyiova said

The Crescent Children’s Centre has helped me with my language and cared for my children while I have been doing the English for speakers of other languages course. The centre has also helped my daughter by supporting her special needs.

Parent Claire Lawrence added

The centre has helped my three-year-old son with his speech and language transition into nursery school. Community development work has helped me with my confidence through volunteering.

Ofsted Swoop on Children’s Dept at Stoke-on-Trent City Council

Pits n Pots Sources have today confirmed that Ofsted has swooped on Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Children and Young People Services Department in a surprise inspection.

Ofsted turned up at 10am this morning [Tuesday] are conducting a two day unannounced inspection and are focussing on the C&YPS “Ëœfirst response’ service.

First response is the City Council’s contact referral and assessment service for children in care and children who may be in need of protection. They are the first port of call should an individual or agency be concerned about the welfare of a child.

It is not clear whether the Ofsted visit is connected to last weeks Serious Case Review following the death of a baby in Stoke-on-Trent.

The child was four months old at the time of the incident and died four months later.

Stoke-on-Trent Safeguarding Children Board published a report on the incident along with its recommendations to the agencies involved.

The incident that led to the death was described by the review as a tragic accident and there was no history of abuse relating to the child concerned.

The report concluded that there were failures in communication between several child protection agencies which included Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

Ofsted will submit a draft report to Stoke-on-Trent City Council for comment following its inspection. The report will then be released to the public at a later date

Stoke-on-Trent Children’s services continue to improve

The latest independent Ofsted report “ËœChildren’s Services Assessment 2010′ has shown that Stoke-on-Trent City Council continues to make a number of significant improvements to its children and young people’s services.

The report states “Ëœhalf of services in Stoke-on-Trent inspected by Ofsted are good or better and very few are inadequate’. The report continues”¦’a recent unannounced inspection of front-line child protection services found a balance of strengths and areas for development and no priority actions.’

The report also found that National Performance measures show the large majority of outcomes are in line with the averages for England or similar areas.

The findings are part of the annual performance assessment (APA) which measures the quality of services and outcomes for children and young people in the local area.

“We have worked hard over the past 12 months to continue to improve our services for children and young people and it is great to see this recognised in the report.

“The council has retained its “Ëœadequate’ rating for the second year running that is a good achievement. While the report highlights areas for development it also shows some very positive signs of improvement. We have improved performance of children at the end of their reception year, there is a significant reduction in the number of children not in education, work or training and our provisional figures for 2010 show that educational standards at age 16 have continued to improve.

“In my view it is a balanced report that gives us a clear message on the areas we are doing well and highlights areas for improvement. We are very ambitious and want to raise the aspirations of all our young people in the city so we will be striving harder than ever to offer more opportunities for their future”

The report details outcomes for children and young people stating lifestyles are supported generally well and health outcomes are in line with those in similar areas or found nationally. However obesity rates are higher but participation in high quality physical activity and sport has continued to rise.

Arrangements for keeping children and young people safe are good with the majority of indicators in line with national performance. Anti-social behaviour has reduced along with permanent exclusions and levels of re-offending.

The full report can be viewed at www.ofsted.gov.uk/oxcare_providers/la_download/(id)/6008/(as)/CAR/car_2010_861.pdf

Stoke-on-Trent Children’s Services Praised By OFSTED

Government inspectors have praised the work of staff involved in safeguarding children in Stoke-on-Trent.

A team from Ofsted made an unannounced two day visit recently to look at the work of the contact, referral and assessment services for children in need and young people who may be in need of protection.

A letter to the director of children’s services, Dr Sharon Menghini, singled out four areas of strength in the service, including front line services, the out-of-hours service and children’s disabilities team.

The letter also identifies a number of areas which the inspectors considered satisfactory, including child protection enquiries and the local Safeguarding Children Board, which, it says, ‘provides effective support, training and coordination of safeguarding arrangements across the partnership’.

Commenting on the inspection, cabinet member for children and young people’s services, Councillor Debra Gratton, said, ‘This area of our work can be particularly challenging and the report’s findings are a tribute to the dedication of the staff. The safeguarding of our young people is paramount to the services we provide and to be credited in this way is encouraging for everyone working in children’s services. I would like to thank the all the staff for their continued hard work and dedication in helping to make our children safe and secure in all aspects of their lives.’

Dr Menghini added, ‘This inspection demonstrates we have a solid and stable foundation in this area of our work. The inspectors were very positive and constructive in their findings and we will be working on the particular areas they identified for development.’

The inspection will contribute to the annual review of the council’s children’s services, which will be rated overall later this year.

Who would want to be a teacher?

I met up with an old friend last night in Leek for a pint. He teaches in a primary school in the West Midlands and has being teaching for 25 years in the same school. He yearns for the day that he can retire as teaching is having an impact on his mental health. A few years ago he broke down in the classroom and was off work with depression. Recently the school failed its Ofsted and fear that his mental well being is in decline re surfaced. He told me about the failings of the Head at his school who has allowed things to slide. It seems one of the factors in the failing was the toxic reports that the parents gave on the head. He tells me of the impossible demands of the parents who are quick to criticise but slow to offer any support themselves either to their off spring or generally to the school. Over the years the social composition of the school has changed with the middle class element voting with their feet. The school draws from a large council estate. The kids the boys especially spend much of their free time on computers, sometimes several hours into late in the night and arrive dog tired at school. By 10 am many of them have their heads down on the desk, as they are exhausted. He gave the class of 31 an exercise on South Africa and only three had bothered to do it. The range of abilities of the kids is also very wide ranging from kids who can give all the Prime Numbers up to 100 and others who do not know what the next number after 99 is. Disruption is an increasing problem in the school although not in his class. He is the only male in the school “apart from the rabbit in class 2″. His colleagues can only talk about teaching and the X Factor. He increasingly finds them and the job a chore. Then of course there is Ofsted, which has increased its failure rate from 3% to 10% so that more schools fall into the net. He is scathing about Ofsted and on a previous visit characterised the inspectorate as ” as middle class, middle aged women from Herefordshire” who knowledge of the problems of a Black Country school in a social priority area are sketchy at least.

I have another friend who I have also known since the 70s. She teaches in a High School in the City, which is in special measures. Again it is in a troubled area of the City. She works something like 70 to 80 hours a week. She seems to have no time of her own. Work pressure is crushing and again her health is affected. The Head Teacher piles more and more work on her and her life is spent in writing reports often at very short notice.

A third friend teaches at a FE College. He has worked their since the 80s and again is finding the increasing demands of his job testing. The manager who has never taught and has come from industry is a bully and there have been arguments and threats. There are minor victories when he informed the manager of spelling and grammatical mistakes in one of the frequent missives from the manager.

If these accounts are typical of the experience of teaching in the opening years of the 21st Century then who would want to teach?

I am a qualified teacher and I did teach again in 2005 in a local FE College. I had been some years out of the game but I was shocked by a number of things that I witnessed. It seemed that the A level students I was teaching German History to seemed to lack any initiative or drive. What surprised me was that some of them were destined to go to some prestigious Universities like Bristol, Durham and Leeds. I set them an exercise on the domestic and foreign policy of Kaiser Wilhelm. I gave them the website, lists of source material, extracts from books and other information that would help them each to give 5-minute presentations on subjects like Wilhelmite expansion in Africa. No one did the exercise although I believed that the ability to present information would hold him or her in good stead throughout their working lives. Anyway no one did it. Again in writing reports I was told to eschew the truth and write only positive things about the students even though I wanted to write words like ” lazy” and “oaf” in the reports. I feared that we were producing students who were incapable of independent thought or action. Friends who work in Higher Education confirm the lamentable state of students who arrive at Universities. Maths students who don’t know what “factorise” means, etc.

Last year the NUT produced a report on the mental health of teachers. It catalogued the increasing workload being placed on teachers. Half of teachers were considering leaving the profession citing work demands, lack of support and poor pupil behaviour as being factors. The HSE also found that Teaching was one of the most stressful occupations.

Unmanageable workload, violence, excessive monitoring, disruptive pupils, constant change and workplace bullying were common factors which is leading to a haemorrhaging of teachers from the profession and for those who remain an increased likelihood of mental harm as experienced by my friend.

With another burst of reform promised by the new Government it looks like we will be in for a bumpy ride.

ICO Wants To See Performance Awards

A data protection and publication performance assessment regime – similar to Audit Commission and Ofsted inspections of councils and schools – has been discussed at the highest levels of the Information Commissioners Office (ICO).

Speaking exclusively to Public Servant, Christopher Graham said there was pressure to introduce a high-profile system of ratings for public bodies detailing examples of good performance to counter the many negative stories.

‘It was put to me at our recent management board meeting that although we emphasise the educator rather than the enforcer role – with good regulators being both – can’t we do something that is a bit more box office?,’ he revealed.

‘So they are kicking around the idea of the Oscars for bodies that do well on data protection and Freedom of Information. At the moment all you ever hear about is people leaving laptops on trains and no one gets any credit for running a really tight ship.

‘It certainly made me think, although we have our work cut out at the moment without becoming a sort of impresario for a Hollywood-style awards ceremony. But the performance assessment regime has worked well in local government as councils aspired to become beacon authorities in the same way that schools are keen to say that they did well in their Ofsted inspections. However, I don’t want to commit to a similar scheme run by the ICO just yet.’

In Whitehall, a third of departments were judged last summer to be failing to meet ICO guidelines on proactive publication of data, and local government performance is also patchy on placing expenses of senior officials and minutes of meetings online. Top performing government departments included the Department for International Development and the Department for Transport. Graham said that others were not doing so well, but insisted that the ICO was working to improve standards.

‘Expenses for senior public figures ought to be in the public domain and it is becoming quite routine that one’s expenses get stuck up on the website – and very boring they are too,’ he added. ‘But it is a corrective to any temptation to be obliged to somebody who is trying to do you a favour.’


Children’s home “outstanding” – twice in a year!citylogo

A Stoke-on-Trent children’s home has been given an “outstanding” Ofsted report ““ for the second time in a year.

The accolade means the home can now use the official Ofsted “OUTSTANDING” logo on its stationery and publicity material. Only homes which have been visited twice in twelve months and judged “outstanding” both times by the inspectors can use the logo.

The home is one of the city council’s new small group homes, where two children are looked after in an environment aimed at creating an important aspect of family life – being looked after by a small group of people who care and want the best for the children they look after.ibbs1

Portfolio holder for Children and Young People’s Services, Cllr. Roger Ibbs (pictured), said:” Small group homes are the way forward for children in care and this is a terrific achievement for this home and all those involved in helping to run it.  We are hoping to expand our small group homes because of the visible benefits the children have felt.”

There are eight small group homes in the city with more due to open later this year.

Of the eight being currently up and running, two are judged “outstanding”, while the others have been given “good” reports by Ofsted.

The achievement will be marked with a special event later this year with other organisations in the region which have received similar “outstanding” reports.


School chef cooks up successchef

Pupils and staff at a Stoke-on-Trent school are celebrating after their chef won a place in the national final of the School Chef of the Year competition.

Clair Jones, who works at Sutherland Primary School in Stoke-on-Trent, beat off challenges from six other finalists to claim the top prize at the regional final which was held at Knowsley Community College in Huyton, Liverpool.

Now Clair will take her tasty talents to the national final, which will be held at Sheffield in May.

Portfolio holder for children and young people’s services, Cllr Roger Ibbs, said:” School meals can play a vital role in the school day. Clair has demonstrated expertly how you can create an appealing, tasty meal for children while making sure they get the healthy ingredients to help keep them fit and well. We wish her every success for the final.”

The other North West finalists came from Bolton, Knowsley, Lancashire, Liverpool, Wigan and Tameside authorities.

The first course on Clair’s winning menu was pork and apricot treats, accompanied by fresh pasta, flavoured with ricotta and spinach on a hearty tomato base. She followed this with juicy spiced plums on a puff pastry star, accompanied by mascarpone and red fruit drizzle.

Following her victory Clair was presented with a crystal glass rose bowl, a cheque for £100 and a certificate.

Catering Operations Manager at the city council, Louise Weaver, said:” Everyone at the school and city council are so proud of Clair. Not only that, pupils will have the added bonus of getting to taste her winning dishes. Now its fingers crossed for the final!”

And finally…………………

imagesImproving your chances of success with Build Up

Build Up North Staffordshire, the UK’s most successful construction industry support network, is organising a series of events in February and March.

The events, which are free for Build Up members, aim to help local construction companies to improve their performance at tendering and enable them to successfully bid for contracts.

The first event, on Tuesday 10 February, will demonstrate how to write effective sales quotations, proposals and tenders, as well as looking at the support and financial assistance currently available to businesses. The second event, on Wednesday, 25 March, will look at networking and how establishing successful working relationships can further increase their chances of working on major projects.hazel

Councillor Hazel Lyth (pictured), Stoke-on-Trent City Council portfolio holder for enterprise and culture, said: “Tackling worklessness is high on the council agenda. This scheme helps businesses work together to create opportunities for sustainable development. Working alongside the new Job Enterprise and Training (JET) centres Build Up North Staffordshire is about creating and enhancing employment for local people.”

The events will be held at the North Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce, on Festival Park, Stoke-on-Trent, between 4.30pm and 7.00pm. Places are limited and only available to Build Up members. They follow the successful conference, which was held in November to address the issues facing construction companies during the credit crunch.

Build Up North Staffordshire is a partnership project that enables local construction companies to benefit from the regeneration of the area and has helped to create an effective local supply chain network. Since it was established in September 2007, it has helped 430 construction companies to become aware of and be involved in the regeneration of North Staffordshire.

To register for the event, or for more information on becoming a member of Build Up North Staffordshire, please contact Ann Steele on 01782 224414 or email annsteele[at]nscci.co.uk. View the website at www.buildup-ns.org.uk.

We here at pitsnpots remain committed to getting the good news stories out there as often as possible.

What do you think of the above initiatives?


pkb4 Many people were left reeling at the news that Sandon High School has been placed in special measures following an Ofsted inspection. Serco and Portfolio Holder Roger Ibbs, to their credit, supported the school’s appeal against the Ofsted verdict. In this article Peter Kent Baguley gives his thoughts on this school and it’s charismatic Headteacher:-

“Stoke-on-Trent’s Sandon school pionneering global approach”

I have always believed that there is more to education than passing examinations. Now it would seem that even the examination obsessed government and its schools’ commissariat, Ofsted, recognise that too. Why else would Ofsted place in special measures a school where 55% of its 16 year-olds gain five or more A*-C GCSEs; where, when Maths and English are included, 37% achieve the goal, comfortably above education minister Ed Ball’s recently declared 30% target, and where 98% of all students leave school with at least one GCSE certificate?  This is a school where all but 10 of last July’s 150 leavers found jobs! Within the target-driven culture that government promotes as education most people would have regarded this as a successful school.

Strangely enough, those aspects of schools I rate highly, for example, the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of students; healthy lifestyles; enjoyment of education; attendance; respect for each other are rated highly by the Ofsted report.

So what is it that Ofsted sees as more important than passing examinations?  Well, it would seem, passing more examinations…and…according to nationally-prescribed rates and levels! Such is the mechanistic level to which the joy of discovery, learning and self-expression reduced.

This morning I was the guest of Miss Barbara Hall, head teacher at Sandon Business & Enterprise School, one of Stoke-on-Trent’s 17 High Schools. It is the first of the completely rebuilt secondary schools in the city under the BSF programme. It is not at all like entering a school, with the spacious and attractively designed entrance area being more akin to a company headquarters. I wanted to gain first-hand experience of this forward-looking school and to show support and solidarity in the wake of the mean-minded Ofsted report.

I met students who had recently made presentations at business conferences in London, Coventry, York, and yes, Shanghai. This school’s pioneering development of its business specialism is so highly regarded that education officials, councillors and teachers come to discover some of the secrets of their astonishing achievements. The students I met were articulate and courteous and clearly joyfully immersed in their educational enterprise. Barbara Hall’s inspirational leadership and the whole school, staff, students and governors, deserve the maximum possible support and the heartiest congratulations for all their individual and collective achievements.

Of course this Ofsted decision has wider implications for the community served by this school because Sandon High is soon to merge with Longton High ahead of it’s closure under the BSF programme. As Chair of Governors at LHS I look forward to working with the Sandon Governors and in particular Chair Phil Boon and Head Barbara Hall. All parties will work together to make sure that Sandon High School is out of special measures in double quick time and everyone is very confident that success will be achieved!