Suffolk: Action pledge over school SATs slump
10:08 14 December 2012
SUFFOLK’S education chief has pledged to address the shocking primary school results which have seen the county shamed as the joint-third worst-performing authority in England.
"There needs to be more of an ethos of continual improvement"
Despite delivering improved results for 11-year-olds sitting their maths and English exams, Suffolk has again dropped down the national league table for children performing at the required Level 4 standard for their combined maths and English scores.
Only the City of Kingston Upon Tyne, and Medway Towns, performed poorer than Suffolk.
While 82% of children in Suffolk achieved the target Level 4 in English and 80% hit the grade in maths, only 74% secured a Level 4 pass in both English and maths. The figures show a 5% rise over 2011 but other authorities have made better progress and Suffolk has slumped to near the foot of the table.
Graham Newman, county council cabinet member for education and young people, and county council leader Mark Bee spent 90 minutes at the offices of the East Anglian Daily Times yesterday to discuss the county’s poor performance and outline a plan of action.
Top education officer to leave
AS Suffolk drops further down the national league table it has been confirmed that the county’s head of school improvement is to leave.
Sally Rundell, assistant director of learning and improvement at the authority, has announced her departure in March 2013.
In a letter to headteachers, interim director of children and young people’s services Simon White said: “This has been a period of great change in Suffolk as well, and Sally has made a very important personal contribution to developing our policy and approach to education, and the development of the Learning and Improvement Service. It is no accident that attainment is now the number one priority for Suffolk County Council.”
Mr Newman said improving attainment and progress was now the council’s “number one priority” and that the biggest challenge Suffolk faces is addressing the level of mediocrity among many schools that are “coasting” with no ambition to make improvements.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of focus now on those schools which are just about mediocre or slightly below it because those are the ones actually where quite often there is scope for to move forward and we do have, in the county, a big span of challenges,” he said.
“The ethos has to be ‘we can out-perform what we did last year’ and not to say ‘we have reached a good point last year so we can stick where we are’.
“There needs to be more of an ethos of continual improvement and continually bettering last year’s outcome.”
Mr Bee added: “Part of the danger that we recognise is this sort of drift towards a bit of complacency that clearly we can’t afford to have in a county where we want to drive things forward.”
Both Mr Bee and Mr Newman said it was important for parents to work with schools in trying to raise attainment and that the emphasis was on rigorous performance management of teachers and headteachers and closer engagement with parents and governors.
Mr Newman said he and his team would be looking at the approaches used by comparable authorities showing stronger signs of progress.
Mr Bee also paid tribute to the schools that work hard and achieve successful results and said there was a need to “spread the value” of the talented teachers across schools.
Sandy Martin, leader of the Labour group at the council, said it was clear too many Suffolk schools were failing their pupils. “Some of our primary schools are outstanding, but many need improvement. There is a desperate need to invest in improving many of our schools in Suffolk,” he said.
Graham White, secretary of the Suffolk branch of the NUT, said it was critical that the council invested more resources into education to halt the decline.
n Mr Bee said he was confident that the high-profile Raising the Bar initiative would soon be delivering tangible results in the classroom.
The Raising the Bar programme was launched in June and looks at educational attainment, aspiration and employability across the county.
It is being led by Matthew Taylor – chief executive officer at the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) and a former prime ministerial adviser.
He said: “These disappointing findings underline the importance of Raising the Bar enquiry and if Suffolk County Council’s commitment to ask tough questions about the offer to young people in the county.
“I believe the RSA enquiry and the Raising the Bar project will deliver significant results in the short and medium term.”