Countywide testing for Northumberland pupils, to be in place by the summer, is one of the goals of the county council as it responds to recent criticism from Ofsted.
A wide range of further options including more support for schools, teachers, leadership and governors were discussed as Northumberland County Council’s family and children’s services scrutiny committee met on Tuesday.
It came after school inspectors spent a focused week in the county in October, sparked by concerns about the attainment of pupils on free school meals compared to elsewhere.
A total of 17 schools were inspected and while one was graded as outstanding and three good (including Berwick Middle School), a further nine require improvement and four were placed in special measures – St Cuthbert’s in Amble, Lindisfarne Middle School in Alnwick, Guide Post Middle School and Prudhoe High School.
Ofsted also criticised the local authority for a perceived lack of support for its schools.
The countywide testing, which will not be curricular so will not require further teaching, is designed to address one of the key issues raised by Ofsted. This relates to the transfer of pupils from first to middle and then middle to high school and schools being unable to trust each other in terms of pupil ability and attainment.
Councillor Robert Arckless, policy board member for children’s services, said: “We need to have consistency. We want to get that absolutely right. We can’t hide behind the school system, with middle schools blaming the first schools and high schools blaming the middle schools, that’s got to stop.”
Daljit Lally, the new corporate director of children’s services, said other measures being brought in include ensuring the school support team is up to full strength, allowing two advisors to work two extra days each specifically for English and maths with schools that need support and augmenting the team with additional skills.
Within six months, it is hoped that the team will have been restructured.
And all of these steps are alongside a review of the council’s senior leadership team and of the council’s school improvement and support services.
Another key theme that came out of the meeting, which was attended by a number of councillors who aren’t members of the committee, was of the need to work together.