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ISLAND’S MP COMMENTS ON OFSTED REPORT

Conservative Party PortraitsThe Island’s MP, Andrew Turner, has blamed the Isle of Wight Council’s poor leadership as the reasoning behind a shocking Ofsted report, which Mr Turner has labelled as ‘shameful reading’.

Following a five-day inspection in June, Ofsted released a report on Wednesday raising concerns about poor standards of education across the Isle of Wight.

Ofsted found evidence of poor corporate and strategic leadership, as well as an uncoordinated approach to school improvement.

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 Talking yesterday, Mr Turner said in a statement:

“We must not beat about the bush – this report makes shameful reading.  It makes it only too clear that the change-over to the two tier system was badly planned and poorly implemented and that this is responsible for so many of our schools now being found needing improvement or failing.  There is simply no excuse for the Island’s education system to languish near the bottom of national league tables.  Many other areas face far greater challenges, such as a high number of children unable to speak English and a high ‘churn’ of families moving in and out of their area, but their Education Authorities are able to achieve better results.

“However, whatever has happened in the past, the most important issue facing the Island now is how to move forward.  The Council has no greater responsibility than educating the Island’s young people and preparing them for their working lives so we cannot let any more young people be failed by the Island’s education system.  I know that Cllr. Richard Priest, the Independent cabinet member, is working well with the well respected Hampshire Children’s Services and other parties, including Cllr. Chris Whitehouse, the Conservative Education Spokesman, to improve the service that the Council gives our schools; this has also been recognised by Ofsted.  I will support them all the way in the challenges they face and will be holding regular meetings with them to work through the issues.  This report recognises that in the last few months there have been movements in the right direction and we must build on them.

“Ofsted will inspect the Council again in nine to twelve months time to see how the service is progressing.  I believe they will find improvements; not least because everybody is now pulling together effectively.  We need the support of education professionals, school governors, parents and the Island community as a whole to ensure that Island children get the start in life they are entitled to.  We should not lose sight of the fact that we have some good and outstanding schools and Ofsted knows that they can play a key role in helping other schools to improve.  We are already seeing some examples of that with the recent announcement that Christ the King College is to take over the leadership of Newport CofE Primary School in the new school year.

“Councillors, like MPs, are held to account through the ballot box by their electorate – and of course that has happened.  But officers are a different matter.  I have no problem with a two tier system in principle, but when the proposal to change the Island’s schools was consulted on I believed that senior officers in the Education Authority did not have the ability or capacity to deliver the reorganisation effectively, which is why I publicly opposed their plans.  The proof of how poor those officers actually were is only now emerging – and it is even worse than I feared.  I am looking into whether anything can be done to hold those responsible to account.

“The Council certainly has some very good officers – but they have been led by people who clearly were not up to the job.  Steve Beynon was responsible for education from January 2007 until he left the Island a few months ago; he most certainly has a great deal to answer for.  It is hard to believe that even now he is touting for business as an education consultant elsewhere.  I am writing to the Secretary of State for Education about this.”

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