By James McNeillie, West Midlands Senior HM Inspector, @JMcNeillieHMI

When we talk about schools, the West Midlands doesn’t always attract the best headlines.

While there is much to be positive about when it comes to schools in Worcestershire, there is also much more that needs to be done.

The vast majority of schools in Worcestershire are good or outstanding – 89 per cent of them. And when it comes to secondary schools, an impressive 95 per cent are good or outstanding. That’s higher than the figure of 82 per cent for the West Midlands as a whole.

On the other hand, there are still 3,000 or so pupils who go to an inadequate school every day. They, and their parents, deserve better.

So what are the challenges ahead?

If we delve deeper into the statistics, we can see that poorer pupils don’t do well enough. There’s often a gap between disadvantaged pupils and their wealthier classmates when they get their test and exam results.

It’s a sad fact that if you are a disadvantaged pupil in a school in Worcestershire then you are less likely to do well than your peers in many other areas of the country. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Schools receive more funding to support these pupils. School funding is always a topic of debate for those of us working in education. But inspectors really focus on whether this extra money is being spent well and is helping to close that gap.

There is also an issue with the level of pupils’ skills in reading, writing and maths by the time they reach the end of primary school. That’s for all pupils in Worcestershire; not just those who are disadvantaged.

Test results for pupils who left Year 6 in July 2017 were well below the national average. In fact, when compared with 150 other areas in the country, Worcestershire was ranked 123rd.

I know, as an English teacher, that it’s almost impossible to overstate the importance of being able to read. So it’s really sad that hundreds of thousands of children live in homes without books, according to the National Literacy Trust.

This makes it even more important that primary schools teach young children how to read well, and also to enjoy reading. Thankfully, there are many primary schools in Worcestershire that are doing exactly that.

Last autumn we visited St Barnabas CofE Primary School in Worcester.

Ofsted had judged this school to be good back in 2012. When we visited it again last October, we found that the school was still good and had built on its previous strengths.

One of the main reasons for this assessment was that inspectors found that the school supported poorer pupils very well. And as a result, all pupils were making good or better progress across the school.

We’ve also seen a shining example of an improving secondary school in recent months. St Augustine's Catholic High School in Redditch is very different from St Barnabas. But what they have in common is strong leadership.

At St Augustine’s, school leaders exude a determination to encourage every pupil to achieve their potential. In all subjects, pupils are keen to discuss and debate ideas and practices.

That’s the same approach we take at Ofsted. As our strategy states, we have high expectations for every child, regardless of their background.

Any improvements in schools are down to the leaders and teachers who work in them. It’s through their professional dedication that children are able to enjoy a good education.

Teaching really is a noble profession and I can’t remember meeting any ‘bad’ teachers during inspections. What I have seen are teachers who haven’t been given the help and support they need to give the right help and support to the pupils they teach.

I’ve also seen teachers and leaders who haven’t kept up to date with how well pupils in their school are doing compared with pupils in the rest of the country.

We judge all schools in the country against the same criteria. This helps maintain national standards. But many of our inspections are carried out by Ofsted Inspectors, many of whom are full time school leaders, so they understand local issues and challenges.

Our inspection reports outline clearly what school leaders need to do to make the school better. When we judge schools to be inadequate we will usually go back after a few months to monitor their progress. We then publish a letter for parents and the local community to read.

Worcestershire is a diverse blend of lively towns and leafy villages – and everything in between. But wherever we are, inspectors are particularly keen to see how schools are promoting British values. These are the values of democracy, respect and mutual tolerance that bind us together.

A good education is not just about test and exam results, important though they are. So if we visit your child’s school this year, please bear in mind that we will want to see that it is providing a rich and broad curriculum, and that pupils are safe. And we’ll want to hear parents’ views on the school as well, which is why we have Parent View [insert hyperlink here -].

For the rest of the academic year we’ll maintain our focus on those schools that are not yet good. There are currently more than 7,000 pupils in Worcestershire who go to schools that have not yet reached that level.

Those children are foremost in my mind. Along with my colleagues in the West Midlands, I want to make sure that Ofsted acts as a real force for improvement in Worcestershire’s primary and secondary schools. And that there will be good news to report when we publish the Ofsted Annual Report in December.