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Suffolk/Bury St Edmunds: Education watchdog Ofsted will return to Suffolk this week to see if improvements are being made

09:05 20 January 2014

David Ruffley MP Invites Schools Minister Liz Truss to visit the Skylarks after-school club at Guildhall Feoffment School in Bury St Edmunds. 
Liz Truss pictured with David Ruffley and Lois and Edward.

David Ruffley MP Invites Schools Minister Liz Truss to visit the Skylarks after-school club at Guildhall Feoffment School in Bury St Edmunds. Liz Truss pictured with David Ruffley and Lois and Edward.

The education watchdog Ofsted will return to Suffolk this week to see if the county council is successfully helping schools to improve following on from a raft of inspections last year.

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Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley has said Ofsted’s inspection of the local authority’s school improvement services would be the most recent “first indications” of what the county’s Raising the Bar initiative was achieving.

In September last year Ofsted inspectors visited 33 schools from September 9 to 13, and surveyed a further 25 schools by phone over the same period.

The results that nearly a fifth of the schools inspected were judged as inadequate prompted Sean Harford, Ofsted’s regional director for the East of England, to write a scathing letter to Suffolk’s education chiefs in which he raised the question of why the local authority had not done more to bring about improvement.

Ofsted confirmed it was carrying out an inspection of the county council’s school improvement arm this week.

“The inspection will be conducted over a five-day period and will look at the effectiveness of the council’s arrangements to support and challenge schools in the area to improve,” an Ofsted spokeswoman said.

Councillor Lisa Chambers, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for education, skills and young people, said improving educational attainment in Suffolk was the county council’s “top priority”.

It launched Raising the Bar, working with the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts (RSA), to try and achieve this.

Ms Chambers said: “We’re focused on making sure every child in Suffolk has the opportunity to fulfill their potential, which includes going to a good or outstanding school.

“For that reason and because it helps us to drive improvement, we welcome Ofsted inspecting our school improvement services.

“We will be working closely with the inspectors to demonstrate the positive actions we are taking to improve educational attainment across Suffolk. We will use the findings of the inspection to assist us in refining our approach.

“Through our Raising the Bar programme, we’re working with and challenging schools to drive up educational attainment.

“The latest SATS and provisional GCSE results show that Suffolk is making progress in the right direction. This work will most certainly continue.”

On Friday Mr Ruffley met with schools minister Liz Truss, who is also an MP for South West Norfolk, at Guildhall Feoffment Community Primary School in Bury St Edmunds to visit the after-school club ‘Skylarks’.

Mr Ruffley said: “Education does need to be driven up so all primary schools are as good as this one, Guildhall Feoffement. We don’t rest on our laurels.

“We invite ministers and they are good enough to come. The kind of improvement we have seen in London, in some deperately deprived parts of London, show standards can be driven up. It’s possible.

“Speaking about Suffolk, I think we have for too long allowed allowed a culture of standards being okay or good enough and we need to strive for excellence more.”

Ms Truss said: “We are doing a lot of work to make sure these reforms [in education] are not just felt in the big cities, but in places like Norfolk and Suffolk that have so much to offer.

“We have had the Prime Minister here in Suffolk this morning [January 17] talking about infrastructure, but the really important thing apart from infrastructure in Norfolk and Suffolk is our schools.”

Guildhall Feoffment headteacher Sue Herriott spoke of the importance of the need for quality new recuits in teaching.

She added: “The profession has got to be regarded highly, and it hasn’t been for years.”

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