Senior Leeds councillor hits back at challenge from Ofsted chief

Councillor Lucinda Yeadon.
Councillor Lucinda Yeadon.
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A SENIOR councillor had defended the city’s record on school improvement after the head of Ofsted called on Leeds to play its part in the Northern Powerhouse by helping to raise standards in neighbouring areas.

Ofsted’s chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw will claim today that a lack of political will is holding back improvement in schools in the worst performing areas of the country,

Sir Michael Wilshaw. Photo : Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Sir Michael Wilshaw. Photo : Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

He will also say that if Leeds is “to be the engine room of a Northern Powerhouse” it needs to work with the towns on its borders to raise attainment and close skills gaps across a wider area. His comments come ahead of the latest national Ofsted report which is set to highlight that 400,000 pupils in the North of England and Midlands attend schools rated less than good.

However Lucinda Yeadon, Leeds City Council’s executive member for children and families said the authority was playing a major role in a Yorkshire wide project which is aiming to raise standards in schools.

She said: “We acknowledge the poor performance of the region as a whole, and have been leading a regional collaboration to raise standards across all phases of learning in Yorkshire.” Coun Yeadon added: “88 per cent of schools in Leeds are judged good or outstanding by Ofsted which puts us top for the Yorkshire and Humber region. This is a really strong position and the result of the fantastic work that headteachers, school staff, the local authority and governors do in schools every day. However, we are not complacent and know that there is still more to do to raise levels of attainment for all pupils.” Last month it emerged that Ofsted’s regional director Nick Hudson had written to Leeds City Council describing the performance of the city’s primary schools as “weak” and “inexcusable.”

The letter demanded that the council set up out its plans to improve

But the council criticised Ofsted for failing to recognise the achievements of Leeds primary schools.

The Ofsted letter, seen by the YEP, followed primary school tests showing children in Leeds performed below the national average in reading, writing, maths and science.

At the time Coun Andrew Carter, leader of the opposition Conservative group on the council, criticised the authority for not making the letter public and accused the Labour administration of trying to “bury bad news”.

However Coun Yeadon said that nine out of ten primary aged pupils in the city attended schools which were good or outstanding and said it was disappointing that Ofsted had not acknowledged this.

Ofsted said its regional director wrote letters about school performance to councils across Yorkshire “where performance deviates significantly from national averages for any of the published key stage results.”

The education watchdog said it had written to Barnsley, Bradford, Calderdale, Doncaster, Hull, Leeds, North East Lincolnshire, North Lincolnshire, North Yorkshire, Rotherham, Sheffield, Wakefield, and York councils but could not comment on whether each letter was positive or negative.

Leeds City Council has played a leading role in the Pathfinder Initiative - a Yorkshire wide programme which aims to help schools which require improvement work together to achieve good ratings from Ofsted.