Attempts to tackle underperformance in Blackpool schools have been criticised with more than 2,500 children now getting an inadequate education, Ofsted has said.
The education watchdog today published a letter sent to Blackpool Borough Council outlining concerns after a school improvement inspection in December.
Ofsted said there are still “significant weaknesses” in the local authority’s school improvement strategy, after it was judged ineffective in November 2013.
It is the latest authority to come under fire from Ofsted, with Reading Borough Council last week being warned to address declining performance of its schools.
Jo Morgan, Ofsted’s director for the north west, said the lack of progress was “extremely concerning”.
She added: “Our evidence shows the … school improvement strategy is not fit for purpose, with officers failing to quickly identify and tackle underperformance in the town’s schools.
“There has been a systematic failure to promote school-to-school support and senior leaders have not been held sufficiently to account.”
Inspectors found too many schools are inadequate with pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds most likely to lose out because of the low standards. Ofsted said only half of the town’s secondary schools that have been inspected by Ofsted are good or better – meaning more than 2,500 pupils have inadequate provision.
Less than three in 10 disadvantaged pupils get five GCSEs, including English and maths, at grade C or above. Blackpool is ranked in the bottom three local authorities nationally for attainment.
In a letter to Blackpool Council, inspector Joanne Olsson said: “Students’ chances of attending a good secondary school in Blackpool are severely limited.
“The achievement gaps between disadvantaged pupils and their peers that are evident by the time children start school do not close quickly enough and remain at the end of Key Stage 4.”
She added: “There is no cohesive strategy to help schools move to outstanding and good schools are not systematically encouraged to work together to improve.”
But she said there was cause for optimism. Ofsted found primary school pupils are developing well and new leadership has a “renewed determination” to improve performance.
Ms Morgan added: “New leadership acknowledges that things need to change. They are taking the first steps towards achieving better outcomes. Primary schools are continuing to prepare pupils well for their next steps. It is now vital that the council work with secondary schools to ensure that the good start these pupils receive does not go to waste.”
The council said it is aware of the problems raised by Ofsted and is working hard to address issues.
In a statement, its cabinet member for children’s services Ivan Taylor said: “We continue to have high aspirations for all schools and educational settings, encouraging more schools to become outstanding while continuing to challenge those who fall below the standards that the town expects.”
Ofsted will continue to monitor Blackpool’s improvement plan.