THE EXPERTISE of teachers at Thurrock’s top three performing schools will be used to improve and reshape education in the borough.

In the last few months, Carmel Littleton, the council’s education director and John Kent, the council leader and portfolio holder for education, have been forging a “masterplan”.

They have been working hard since the harsh findings of Christine Gilbert, a former Ofsted chief inspector, who probed the state of education in Thurrock over six months last year.

Problems included a lack of trust between the council and headteachers and a borough lacking a vision or a feasible strategy.

The primary schools issue was initially thrust into the spotlight at the end of November 2012 when Ofsted, ranked Thurrock in the bottom three for the percentage of schools that were either good or outstanding.

In 2013, though the borough’s primary schools had been found to improve, Thurrock still languished in the bottom three for the number of decent primary schools.

So just what is the council going to do to improve the situation?

One of its key plans is to work with the borough’s very best schools and share the secrets of their success.

Beacon Hill - a specialist school in South Ockendon - Dilkes, a top-performing primary school in South Ockedon, and secondary school the Harris Academy, Chafford Hundred are all graded outstanding by Ofsted - and fortunately already have special “teaching school” status, awarded by the government, to help other schools.

Ms Littleton said: “We’re really lucky here to have three schools that have teaching school status. We want to use them more.

“Schools that are really good at teaching and leading should be the ones that offer school improvement.

“They go into schools and offer courses, for instance, Dilkes offer a course in “high-impact” teaching, which was behind its speedy improvement.

“The role of the local authority is changing. We still need people to look at the data behind schools, and that’s what the LA does. But having day-to-day practitioners or teachers driving improvement is what we have at present.”

Thurrock Gazette: christine gilbert and carmel littleton

Christine Gilbert, left, with Carmel Littleton at last year's education summit

Ms Gilbert was keen to kick start a “big conversation” about the state of education in Thurrock to draw on achievements in the borough, while also looking at areas that need improving.

This has now happened and from that, a “vision” - something Ms Gilbert said Thurrock lacked - is being formed.

Ms Littleton said: “We have come up with a shared vision, designed by head teachers. We could have just sent something out, but we wanted to agree it with schools.

“The vision is, essentially, to get the highest achievement possible for every single child and to look at what’s best for every single child, individually. It includes looking at whether we’re doing the best for kids who don’t come to school every day, for instance.”

It is hoped that if - as Ms Gilbert pointed out - there were tensions between headteachers and the council, then that is now changing, as schools realise they need to work for the common good.

Another of Ms Gilbert’s recommendations was that Thurrock seeks to “recruit and retrain” the best teachers. One way Ms Littleton and Mr Kent plan to do this is by making the most of the world-class arts facilities on offer here.

Ms Littleton said: “We have spoken to 21 arts organisations, including the Royal Opera House and the Backstage Arts Centre and together we’re putting in place an offering that schools will buy into.

“It should have a knock on effect in attracting high quality teachers into the borough, knowing they get to work with high quality arts organisations.”

The council is keen, too, to celebrate the success of teachers by creating an awards scheme for them. It is hoped this will drive up ambition and achievement in teachers.

It’s clear that there is a long way to go. But as more and more schools become academies, requiring less input from the council, the role of the local authority is changing.

It’s worth remebering Thurrock Council - in its evolving role with schools - instigated the investigation carried out by Ms Gilbert last year - and is now working with schools to drive up standards.

Mr Kent added: “We’ve come a long way and made good progress. We know there’s more work to do.”

Thurrock Gazette: Thurrock Council leader John Kent wants parents to apply in good time.

John Kent: "We're making good progress, but there's a long way to go."


AT the end of 2012, after Ofsted dumped Thurrock in the bottom three nationally for the percentage of pupils getting a good or outstanding education, the council knew it had to act.

The man responsible for education then, councillor Oliver Gerrish, announced plans for an education summit in which he invited head teachers, Ofsted inspectors and politicians to discuss education in Thurrock.

At that summit in March 2013, Christine Gilbert, a former chief inspector of Ofsted, launched a the six-month probe, paid for at the cost of £25,000 by the council.

It found:

*a lack of trust between the council and headteachers

*that the borough lacked a vision and a strategy

*tensions between headteachers

*aspriations across the whole community needed lifting.

Ms Gilbert made recommendations which included forming a vision, recruiting and retaining the best teachers, encouraging good schools to lead improvement and celebrating education in Thurrock.

The report was published in October.



*Thurrock has just one outstanding primary school - Dilkes

*Since November 2012, 12 out of the 16 primary schools fully inspected by Ofsted in Thurrock were found to be inadequate or require improvement.

*Thurrock has three “teaching schools”: Beacon Hill , Dilkes and Harris Academy, Chafford Hundred *Tudor Court and Orsett primary schools are both ranked in the top 250 primary schools in the country for progress *Eight out of Thurrock’s 10 secondary schools are either good or outstanding, according to Ofsted.

*More than half (31 out of 52) of all the schools in Thurrock are now academies. Of the rest, nine are faith schools and 12 are local authority maintained