Councillor highlights ‘genuine pressure’ on teaching staff in Dacorum and Herts amid Ofsted data

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“We do need to understand the pressure so many of our schools, staff and our headteachers are under”

LABOUR councillor Nigel Bell has highlighted the ‘genuine pressure’ teaching staff are under, after councillors were presented with Ofsted data from the past year.

According to the latest data, 91.5 per cent per cent of schools in the county – that’s nine out of every 10 – were judged to be ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted in the year up to March 31.

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At a meeting of the county council’s education, libraries and lifelong learning cabinet panel on Thursday (June 22), councillors were told that that was above the national average of 88.5 per cent.

Classroom stock image.Classroom stock image.
Classroom stock image.

And Ben Fuller, from Herts for Learning, noted that the overall proportion of schools in the county ranking ‘good’ or better was “very strong”.

At the meeting, leader of the Labour group Cllr Nigel Bell pointed to the work of teachers in the wake of the Covid pandemic.

And in noting the county’s Ofsted performance, he said that it was important to recognise the work put-in by teachers and schools.

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However he said they should also remember the ‘genuine pressure’ that hard-working teaching staff were under.

He pointed to the ‘stress’ of producing the ‘magic few words’ from an Ofsted inspection.

And he highlighted the case of headteacher Ruth Perry, who died ahead of the release of an Ofsted report that downgraded her school.

He said: “That needs to go on record that we do need to understand the pressure so many of our schools and our staff and our headteachers are under.

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“It’s good to see that so many schools are getting the top grades, but always understanding that pressure.

“I would like to pay tribute to obviously the schools and all the work they have done.”

In response Mr Fuller said that at Herts for Learning they would rather say that their focus was on making sure schools are providing excellent education for their young people – and not all about Ofsted.

“Nonetheless there is some element of the work that our advisers do which is around making sure that those headteachers and senior leaders are properly prepared to have those conversations,” he said.

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“As you say it is a stressful situation, but being well prepared and having the right evidence and knowing how to handle those conversations is an important part of helping schools to get the outcomes that they deserve.”

Liberal Democrat Cllr Mark Watkin made particular reference to the success of the county’s maintained schools.

According to the data 94.8 per cent of maintained schools in the county were judged to be good or outstanding – compared to 84.2 per cent of non-maintained schools.

And he said it worried him that three of “failing” primary schools were to be offered up to the non-maintained sector, as if – he suggested – it was a miracle cure.

“Where is the cure in that group of figures?” he asked.

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According to a report presented to councillors, priorities for the next year included increasing the number of schools judged to be good or outstanding and closing the attainment gap for vulnerable pupils.

Herts for Learning is a business owned by the county council that delivers school improvement and business support services, training and resources.

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