Priority 2: school improvement

Our aim: to raise attainment in our primary and secondary schools

Why this is a priority?

Derby’s educational performance is weak, particularly for those schools in areas with the highest levels of deprivation, with 2016 results at key stage 2 and key stage 4 below the national average, and almost a quarter of Derby’s pupils in schools rated by Ofsted as requiring improvement or inadequate.

There is widespread underperformance in maths and English at both the primary and secondary phases. Just over half of Derby’s pupils at the end of key stage 4 achieved A*-C in both English and maths, against the national average of 63.3%. In 2016, pupils with English as an additional language (EAL), particularly from new communities, are especially vulnerable.

Derby has limited strength and depth in school improvement leadership across the city, particularly in primary schools, where Derby has only 3 teaching school alliances and 7 national leaders of education. Recruitment and retention of a quality workforce is a key concern for head teachers, as is the need to invest in high quality development for existing teachers. School governance, a key element of school success, is strong in some of Derby’s schools, but this needs to be replicated across the city.

In 2016, an audit of teacher development across Derby found a number of barriers to a good development culture, including information overload and lack of specialist continuing professional development (CPD). The audit found that CPD in the city should focus on language, phonics and parental engagement at primary level. At secondary level, the priorities are high-quality specialist teaching and learning support CPD for middle leaders, partnering with other schools, and better supply cover.

Too many of Derby’s pupils are missing school. Although the level of authorised absences match those across England’s primary schools, Derby has a higher proportion of unauthorised absences at primary compared to national levels. Similarly, the proportion of unauthorised absences at secondary are higher in Derby than nationally. These differences are greater in disadvantaged pupils. Persistent absenteeism at primary and secondary in 2015/16 were also higher in Derby than nationally.

What will we do?

To ensure that Derby schools access the best possible evidence and  use it effectively, we have worked with the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) to designate Wyndham Primary Academy as Derby’s Research School. Wyndham will be funded and supported to ensure schools in Derby can use research to improve teaching and attainment.

We also want to make sure that school improvement support is focused on and tailored to the needs of Derby schools and pupils. The partnership board works with the Department for Education, Derby City Council, local teaching schools, and school leaders, to help schools assess their improvement needs and obtain relevant school improvement programmes. This will include:


  • further work with the Department for Education funded East Midlands West Maths Hub to embed and extend a programme of mastery approaches to teaching maths in primary schools and to develop similar support for secondary schools and further education providers
  • programmes funded through the Teaching and Leadership Innovation Fund (TLIF), including leadership development, science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and phonics
  • encouragement for over 100 teachers to take up the national professional qualifications (NPQ) scholarships free of charge, and an increase in the numbers of national leaders of education (NLEs) and teaching schools across the city.

Our targets

By 2021 Derby will have significantly closed the gap in English and maths progress and attainment at key stage 2 and key stage 4. The city will be on track to exceed national averages within 5 years.