Hit squad act to sort out Thurrock primary schools

John Kent

John Kent

First published in Echo News Southend Standard: Matt Abbott by , Chief Reporter

AN education “hit squad” is being sent in to sort out schools across Thurrock.

The Ofsted team’s main aim is to “diagnose the problem” with education.

The Government watchdog is taking action three months after its annual report found Thurrock primary schools were among the worst in the country.

Sean Harford, Ofsted director for the east of England, said: “Too many children in Thurrock leave primary school ill-prepared for secondary education.

“While some do well, too many are lagging behind, particularly those from poorer backgrounds.

This needs to change.

“There are areas in the borough where pupils fare significantly better in similar circumstances.

“We are going in to diagnose the problems through inspection.

That’s the first stage in the path towards a brighter future for children in Thurrock.”

Ofsted would not say which, or howmany schools, it would be targeting.

The hit squad began its probe on Tuesday and said it should be completed by the start of next week.

In December, Ofsted’s annual report revealed Thurrock was in the top 20 per cent nationally for the percentage of pupils at good or outstanding secondary schools.

But, for the second year running, the borough was in the bottom three for the number of primary school pupils getting a “good’’ or “outstanding’’ education.

Last year, an investigation by former Ofsted chief Christine Gilbert, commissioned by the council, found some headteachers didn’t trust Thurrock Council, and the borough lacked a strategy for education.

The watchdog said its inspectors will observe and analyse lessons, talk to staff, pupils and parents and ask staff what the local authority does in challenging and supporting them to improve.

John Kent, Thurrock Council leader and councillor responsible for education, welcomed the Ofsted probe, claiming it followed on well from last year’s £20,000, six-month commission paid for by the authority.

Recently, the council revealed its masterplan for improving education, including learning from the best schools in the area.

Mr Kent said: “I have no doubt Ofsted will find some issues, but I’m equally certain they will realise that, overall, Thurrock is on an improving path. Whatever some local people say, education in Thurrock is getting better.”

He added: “We want all our schools to be “good’’ or better and are working towards that aim, but the more help and advice we get from outside experts, then the quicker it will happen.”

Thurrock MP Jackie Doyle- Price said: “We will achieve better education for all children in Thurrock if they are able to reach their potential as they leave primary school so they aren’t playing catch-up when they get to secondary school.

“I look forward to seeing Ofsted’s conclusions and hope it will lead to action for improvement.”

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