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Gallery: Education chief is committed to improvement after Suffolk drops down league tables

PUBLISHED: 11:37 25 January 2013 | UPDATED: 11:37 25 January 2013

Graham Newman, cabinet member for education at Suffolk County Council.

Graham Newman, cabinet member for education at Suffolk County Council.

Archant

SUFFOLK’s head of education says that there is no one more committed to raising standards than he is, after being criticised by union chiefs.

Graham Newman said that he was confident that once the School Organisation Review (SOR) is complete and the Raising the Bar enquiry has run its course then attainment across the county will improve.

Last night Graham White, secretary of the Suffolk branch of the National Union of Teachers, said he had concerns about leadership at the county council and claimed the authority had been “sitting on its hands” and using SOR as a convenient excuse to cover the malaise surrounding recent results, which place the authority as one of the worst-performing in the country.

But Mr Newman said children’s education was his top priority and that schools in parts of the county already affected by SOR were among those showing real signs of progress, while the changes in marking for some GCSE papers had taken its toll on results.

He said: “This is not a product of SOR - the pupils going through the system at GCSEs have not been subjected to any disruption to their teaching at any time. It is not as if they have been in schools that have been disturbed by SOR.

“Our priorities are getting schools to work with our seven point plan, which was devised primarily for key stage two but the principles are in there.

“We continue to work with the headteachers - 75% of the secondary schools are now academies. Some are sponsored academies with their own improvement schemes.

“For the convertors, although what’s happened there is different, 80% are buying back into our services. They have a complete free hand and they are coming back to us for improvement services.”

He said that amidst the disappointing overall performance, there were some examples of “remarkable good news” in the results - particularly with A-levels.

He said: “We have got some teachers who have improved their A-levels but have suffered the worst with GCSEs.”

He added: “We just have to keep pinching ourselves and keep reminding ourselves that the young people we are doing this for are the ones going through this.

“We need to stop thinking about ourselves and put the children first.”

Mr Newman said another priority was to encourage parents of pupils eligible for free school meals to claim them - figures show that 30% of those entitled to free meals are not taking them. This affects pupil premiums and means that schools are losing about £5million in funding each year.

There’s a problem when it comes to men and mental health. It’s not that men’s mental health is any worse than women’s mental health. It’s just that men are not so good in talking about it and, crucially, seeking help. That could be one of the reasons behind the shocking statistic that three out of every four suicides are men.

The Orwell Bridge is expected to close for the third time this winter as high winds are forecast again on Wednesday night.

Essex Wildlife Trust has responded to reports that a black panther has been sighted in a rural village in the county.

Feeling safe on the streets, career prospects and retirement plans are among the top concerns for women in Suffolk and Essex, a survey reveals.

Proposals to build a new multi-million pound rail depot on the Suffolk/Essex border at Brantham near Manningtree are being reconsidered by Greater Anglia.

A mentally-ill Bury St Edmunds man accused of killing a 57-year-old man by stabbing him multiple times has admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

A crash between a van and a car this morning has closed a rural Suffolk road.

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