Suffolk: County’s NUT President calls for ‘radical changes’
10:00 27 February 2013
THE president of Suffolk’s NUT says something has gone “seriously wrong” with education in the county and called for radical changes to be made to trigger improvement.
Garry Deeks retired in 2011 after 26 years as a head in Suffolk, including spells at Mellis, Cockfield and, most recently, for 17 years at Wilby Primary School.
He said that parents, grandparents and teachers “all over Suffolk” were becoming increasingly concerned for the “educational capacity” of Suffolk County Council (SCC) to support the improvements needed. Suffolk is now third from bottom for its SATs and 142nd out of 151 authorities for the most recent GCSE results and SCC is in the process of completing a schools organisation review (SOR) which is resulting in a shift to a county-wide two-tier system.
Mr Deeks said he was so concerned about the situation he was prepared to stand as a candidate at the upcoming council elections.
He said: “From being in the top five per cent in 2001 (Ofsted) to being in the bottom five in 2012, plainly something has gone seriously wrong. The county politicians lost their way, having declared themselves as mean and lean and devolving funds out to schools at levels unseen elsewhere in the country, there was a much reduced capacity to directly intervene positively in schools. Support for school leadership and governors has diminished and schools are quite isolated as a result. Suffolk once talked of operating a ’family of schools’ - the picture now is very different, fragmented and little cohesion. Sadly too this has resulted in fertile ground for market forces in the guise of academies and free schools to be set up. This is creating increasingly uneven provision for Suffolk children.
“Whilst central government has created a challenging environment for schools to operate, SCC has added to the burden with its own policies over SOR, SEN support and divestment.”
Mr Deeks said the council needed to return some of the divested services to “public ownership and scrutiny” and engage properly with teachers, heads, governors and parents.
He added: “It is disappointing for myself as a recently retired headteacher to see SCC become a much reduced authority and overseeing increasing unfairness for Suffolk youngsters and their families. Some radical changes are needed if local needs are going to be met within a democratic structure where abdication of responsibility is not the active policy.”
An SCC spokeswoman said: “Improving educational standards in Suffolk is the county council’s top priority. We have been working very closely with all stakeholders involved in education through our Raising the Bar programme and already have a number of projects in place to raise attainment levels, such as encouraging schools to form federations and the seven point plan for improving attainment.
“Schools in Suffolk work in clusters and partnerships to focus on improving attainment. And the Learning and Improvement Service works regularly with schools and local authorities both regionally and nationally to share best practice.
“The council is committed to completing SOR. There is clear national and local evidence to show that pupils with in a two tier system outperform those in a three tier system.”