HEADTEACHERS lacking vision and underperforming governors were yesterday blamed as two of the main reasons for low results in Oxfordshire’s weakest schools.

A County Hall select committee yesterday investigated why Oxford’s seven-year-olds posted the worst Key Stage One results in the country in 2010.

It suggested all of the county’s schools could be given targets to get a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ Ofsted rating within a set time period as part of a new drive to boost attainment.

Melinda Tilley, the councillor responsible for school improvement, said there had been a “culture of complacency” over the issue for too long.

The committee, made up of councillors and education experts, heard from staff at three schools that had transformed themselves to boost key Stage One results.

Council consultants warned that, elsewhere, failures in school leadership and governance meant improvements were not being secured.

Julie Quarrell, acting head at Chalgrove Primary School, said too often headteachers prioritised 11-year-olds’ results at the expense of younger pupils.

She said: “The headteachers and senior leaders of some schools, often partly through no fault of their own, do not have that vision or understanding of Key Stage One. Their focus is definitely aimed at Key Stage Two.

“I have to be careful, but I think there has been less of a concern from headteachers about results at Early Years Foundation Stage and Key Stage One, and they often put weaker teachers in lower parts of schools.”

Miss Quarrell said schools that did not believe they needed support were the most difficult ones to help. She said: “There are some teachers out there who perhaps do not have as much expectation of the children.”

The council’s school improvement leader Creighton Muirhead said too many governors did not challenge heads to improve.

Select committee chairman councillor Ann Bonner said “weak school leadership, weak governance, and weak local authority input” led some schools to fail.

She said better training for governors, more ‘federations’ linking primary and secondary schools under a single headteacher, and the new ‘good or outstanding’ target could be among the committee’s final recommendations, which would go to another council committee in September.

Schools could be set time limits to improve their Ofsted rating.

She said: “Where there have been similar problems in other parts of the country, they have looked at it with a slightly more robustly proactive approach than Oxfordshire.

“This is the turning point and from now on we will be making a stand for Oxfordshire.

“It should not be that parents have to move house to get their children into a good school.”


THE committee heard:

  • Teachers marking Key Stage One assessments “err on the side of caution”
  • Heads concentrated on Key Stage Two because the results were published in league tables, and many had not taught younger pupils
  • Governing bodies did not always challenge heads to improve, but instead defended their schools
  • Local authority initiatives have boosted results, but the school had to embrace changes for them to work
  • School heads said they did not understand what budget resources were available next year
  • The number of primaries below the Government’s minimum standards had fallen from 28 in 2009, to 11 in 2010, with either five or six expected this year.