Children in North East facing an 'educational lottery'

The latest annual report from Ofsted highlights the difference in the quality of education being delivered across the region

Fell Dyke Community Primary School pupils. The school was awarded an 'outstanding' rating by Ofsted
Fell Dyke Community Primary School pupils. The school was awarded an 'outstanding' rating by Ofsted

Substandard schooling in Northumberland was cited by Ofsted’s chief inspector as an example of the “educational lottery” facing children.

Findings from Ofsted inspections for the 12 months from September 2012 have revealed only 66% of pupils receiving secondary education in the county are attending schools deemed good or outstanding.

Launching the annual report, which for the first time includes a focused look at the state of schooling in the North East, Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty’s chief inspector of education, children’s services and skills, spoke of the difference in the quality of education being offered nationally and in neighbouring areas such as Newcastle and Northumberland, the latter having focused inspections due to poor performance.

He said: “This is a tale of a nation divided into lucky and unlucky children.

“It is about an educational lottery that consigns some children to substandard schools and favours others with the opportunities provided by institutions.

“The lucky child often now lives in disadvantaged urban areas that previously failed their children.

“Places like Greater Manchester, Newcastle, Sunderland and of course London, have made great strides to improve schooling.... The unlucky child often lives in places you would not normally associate with under performance. They live in places like Norfolk or Suffolk or Northumberland..... The unlucky child goes to a school that has litter in the playground and disorder in the corridors.”

After visiting secondary schools in the North East inspectors recorded in Sunderland 62% of pupils were being taught in good or outstanding schools, 66% in Northumberland, 71% in North Tyneside, 74% in Darlington, 75% in Newcastle, 78% in Gateshead, 86% in Durham and 90% in South Tyneside.

Nick Hudson, Ofsted regional director for North East, Yorkshire and Humberside (NEYH), said: “Despite pockets of high performance secondary schools in NEYH are, overall, among the worst in the country. Pupils from poor backgrounds have by far the worst deal of all - the gap in attainment between those eligible for free school meals and those not eligible is wider than for England at both Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 4.”

While there is room for improvement with some secondary education in the region the education being delivered to four to 11-year-olds paints a more positive picture.

Getting a flying start to their academic years, inspectors have found “the primary sector in the North East is among the best in the country.”

The region has an impressive standard of primary schools with 85% rated good or outstanding, compared with only 74% in Yorkshire and Humberside.

Topping the table nationally is Darlington where 97% of children attend good or outstanding schools with Newcastle just making the national top 10 with 92% of children going to the high standard of schools.

In North Tyneside 87% of children go to good or outstanding primary schools, 87% in Northumberland, 85% in Gateshead, 83% in Durham, 83% in Sunderland and 75% in South Tyneside.

Belita Scott is headteacher at Fell Dyke Community Primary School in Gateshead which was awarded outstanding earlier this year. She said: “We have got exemplary staff working really hard and truly caring for the children and their families. They go the extra mile.”

Sir Wilshaw added: “It is not an exaggeration to report that the story of our schools and colleges today is a tale of two nations.

“Children from similar backgrounds with similar abilities, but who happen to be born in different regions and attend different schools and colleges, can end up with widely different prospects because of the variable quality of their education.”

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