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Diocesan Schools’ Service 2014-2015 – Message from the Director of Schools

The Diocesan Schools Service Team continues to support our family of Catholic schools on their journey to deliver outstanding Catholic education to the children and young people they serve. 2014 continued to see fundamental changes to primary, secondary and tertiary education.

 These changes will result in new testing and examination arrangements being put in place which will continue to raise the bar for all of our Diocesan schools.  When you add to this the introduction of a new national curriculum, changes to the inspection programmes by both Ofsted and the Diocese and the continued increase in the growth of Academy schools, including the first Diocesan academies, 2014 was quite a year for our schools.

The Diocese currently has three multi academy trusts which are home to 13 Diocesan academies. With plans for more Diocesan Catholic academies being developed, it is anticipated that by the end of 2015 over 50% of Diocesan schools will be academies.

2014 also saw the introduction of new models of leadership into our schools with a single head teacher overseeing two Catholic schools. This is mainly in rural areas where either funding pressures or the inability to recruit a new Catholic Head teacher was identified as potentially undermining the successful management of our schools.  Finally 2014 also marked the first designation of Catholic teaching schools in the Diocese with three schools achieving Teaching school status.

The only thing we can be certain of is that the pace of change in 2015 will continue with the continued shrinkage of local authority provision to schools, the further acceleration of the Academy programme, a major review of the way schools are to be inspected from September 2015 and last but not least a General Election in May that will herald further policy initiatives and direction for schools.

It is more important than ever therefore that in these times of major change, the Diocesan family of schools supported by the Diocesan Schools’ Service, parishes, communities and our maintaining Local Authorities works together to ensure we take advantage of the benefits the changes bring, whilst ensuring the quality of the Catholic education our young people receive remains high.

The Diocese is home to 56 schools of which 41 are ‘voluntary aided’ maintained schools, with 13 Catholic academies and 2 independent schools. Our schools currently provide education for some 17,800 children and young people and Catholic schools within the Diocese of Middlesbrough remain a major contributor to education in the North of England.

I am pleased to say that despite the new Ofsted inspection framework and the Diocesan section 48 inspections raising the bar to secure good and outstanding judgements, we now have more Diocesan schools judged to be delivering good and outstanding education than at any time in the past.

 Section 5 Ofsted Inspection Judgements

Judgement 2011/12 2013/14
Outstanding 16 schools (30%) 14 schools (26)
Good 20 schools (37%) 30 schools (56%)
Requires Improvement 17 schools (31%) 9 schools (16%)
Serious Weakness No schools No schools
Special Measures 1 school (2%) No schools
No current designation   1 school (2%)

The positive picture shows an increase in the percentage of good and outstanding schools from 67% in 2011/12 to 82% in 2013/14.

Section 48 Diocese Religious Inspection judgements

Judgement 2011/12 2013/14
Outstanding 17 schools (32%) 17 schools (32%)
Good 31 schools (57%) 33 schools (61%)
Requires Improvement 5 schools (9%) 4 schools (7%)
Inadequate 1 school (2%) 0 school

Despite the inspection bar being considerably raised for Section 48 this year, 93% of Diocesan schools remain judged to be good or outstanding.

However, with the new Ofsted framework and Diocesan ‘Providing Good Catholic Schools’ policy now requiring all schools to be at least good, Diocesan schools must ensure the drive to provide our young people with the best education possible continues at a pace.

The Diocesan Schools’ Service through consultation with our head teachers, staff and governors continues to refine and review the Diocesan ‘strategic plan’ for education providing a framework of support and guidance to schools. The framework covers six key areas, Education Standards, The Catholic Life of the School, Religious Education, Effective Governance, Succession Planning and   Organisation and Partnerships.  To support the delivery of the strategic plan the Diocese is also continuing to provide a focussed Professional Development Programme for staff and governors. It is critical our foundation governors fully understand the changes being introduced in to the education system and feel suitably informed to make the right decisions for both the individual schools at which they serve, for other Catholic schools within their local area and for wider Catholic education generally. To support this, during 2015, a rigorous and robust programme of training for foundation governors will be delivered in our five main geographical school areas of Middlesbrough, Redcar & Cleveland, York, Scarborough and Hull.

In addition, for head teachers a regular consultative forum will meet to allow schools and the Diocese to discuss the progress of schools, the sharing of good practice across the diocese, the opportunity to discuss policy changes and their impact on schools  and importantly, how we can provide direct school to school support and guidance for those schools seeking help.  The forum also allows an opportunity to discuss emerging issues in the geographical vicariates and policy differences in the seven local authority areas the diocese covers.

More than ever before during these times of rapid change with the inevitable uncertainty this brings for some of our schools, it is crucial the Diocesan family of schools and the parishes and communities they serve work together.

The schools within the Diocese of Middlesbrough are well placed to meet the challenges that lie ahead of them and can remain a beacon of Catholic life delivering outstanding outcomes for children and young people in the communities they serve.

Kevin Duffy – Director of Schools        



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