Medway Council’s ‘ambition to improve standards for its young people is universally acknowledged by its schools, a letter from Ofsted states.

The schools’ regulator made the comments in a letter to the authority following a focused inspection which included visiting a very small number of the area’s schools.

This inspection, which took place in June, and involved Ofsted going to ten of Medway’s 100 schools, was to ask their opinion of how they work with the council on school improvement.

A further ten undertook a telephone survey with inspectors while Ofsted also looked at the details of their 34 inspection reports in the past academic year.

The report states that in regards to primary schools ‘challenge, performance and review meetings held by Medway with its primary schools are generally robust and lead to support and intervention, which is sensibly tailored and proportionate to the needs of each school’.

It adds that ‘primary schools identified a range of high quality advice and guidance from the local authority’ and adds ‘there is a high degree of consistency in the nature of activities undertaken by local authority officers in primary schools to accelerate school improvement’.

In regards to governance it states inspectors found evidence that indicates ‘strong support for raising the quality of governance’ and that ‘individual governors reported that Medway’s governor services provided “value for money”, delivered ‘constant’ training opportunities and ‘helped the governing body to challenge the school’.

Under areas of development, the inspectors’ letter states that ‘secondary headteachers and governors, regardless of whether their schools are local authority or academy schools, do not generally feel that their schools are well known to local authority officers and advisers’.

It is worth balancing this against the fact that of Medway’s 17 secondary schools, 15 are academies and not under local authority control.

Of the two schools that are LEA controlled, these are rated as good by Ofsted and have recently recorded excellent GCSE results.

The structure of academies means that funding for them and the governance of them is the direct responsibility of the trustees and sponsors under the guidance of the government’s Department for Education.

In fact, Medway Council has seen a £76.2million reduction in its overall Dedicated Schools Grant, which comes from government, due to secondary schools becoming acadamies.

While the majority of this would have gone directly to school, some would have been used to fund the council’s work with these schools.

In addition, £2.3million has been taken out of the council’s central funding from government in the past financial year, due to the change to academies locally, and this would have been used for school support.

The council’s Portfolio Holder is now set to write to Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, to seek further clarification.

It is also worth noting that the telephone survey by Ofsted was anonymous – and in some cases only involved comments from an individual at a single school – and Medway Council does not know which schools these are as it has not been informed.

Cllr Mike O’Brien, Portfolio Holder for Children Services, said: “We welcome the comments from Ofsted as we always want outside advice and feedback from other professionals. That is the way to grow stronger and improve.

“The report points out some very positive details and we are heartened by the comments that Medway’s ambition to improve standards in schools is universally known.

“I shall now, though, write to Michael Gove to ask for further clarification in regards to Medway’s secondary schools as 15 of the 17 here are academies and are not part of the local education authority and the council does not receive any funding for them from government.”

Barbara Peacock, the Director for Children and Adult Services at Medway Council, added: “The very strong positives in this report show that the council is working hard and working very closely with all schools to ensure there is continuing ambition for all children and improvement where needed.

“We also have a very good strong relationship with all our secondary schools – even though 15 out of the 17 in Medway are academies – and I personally, our Portfolio Holder and council officers – regularly meet with them so that we can all work to ensure that our area’s children are given the best possible start in life.”

Ofsted’s letter can be read by following this link