Suffolk: Ipswich MP Ben Gummer leads calls for Suffolk County Council education chiefs to act quicker after damning Ofsted report

Ipswich MP Gummer led renewed calls for Suffolk County Council to overhaul education standards on the day the authority was criticised by Ofsted as ineffective in its leadership and weak in its support to schools. Ipswich MP Gummer led renewed calls for Suffolk County Council to overhaul education standards on the day the authority was criticised by Ofsted as ineffective in its leadership and weak in its support to schools.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014
7:53 AM

Education chiefs in Suffolk need to “move quicker” to improve the county’s schools after they were condemned for “damaging” the life chances of children in a scathing Ofsted report.

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Ipswich MP Gummer led renewed calls for Suffolk County Council to overhaul education standards on the day the authority was criticised by Ofsted as “ineffective” in its leadership and “weak” in its support to schools.

The report attacked county council officers for not intervening quickly enough in failing schools and said the “life chances” of children were being damaged following a below-average set of Key Stage Two and Four results.

The letter said: “The authority does not have a strategic plan to show how the Learning and Improvement Service can contribute to the council’s future vision.

“As a result, too many school leaders remain unaware of the authority’s role in bringing about rapid improvement, or what their contribution should be to realising the council’s ambitions.”

It added: “They have been equally tardy in addressing ineffective leadership in maintained schools. As a result, there has been a rise in the number of schools judged to be inadequate by Ofsted.”

It was reported in December how 33% of Suffolk children, some 30,000 pupils, do not attend a primary school rated “good” or “outstanding”.

It came after it emerged nearly one fifth of 33 schools visited by inspectors and 25 schools surveyed over the phone were judged as inadequate in September.

Lisa Chambers, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for education, skills and young people, admitted the report made for “sobering reading” but insisted improved action was already under way to address the main areas of concerns raised in the Ofsted report.

Last night, Mr Gummer, who in October was chosen by education secretary Michael Gove to be his parliamentary private secretary in a government reshuffle, said it was a “damning report”.

“Ofsted could not be more clear about the failings at Suffolk County Council,” he said.

“The simple truth is that Suffolk has been left behind by much of the rest of the country, which has improved its schools more quickly and more rigorously than in our own county.

“I want to make clear the fault for Suffolk’s appalling performance is shared by many and goes back a long way.

“To their credit, Mark Bee’s administration is the first in decades to attempt to do something serious about this continued and catastrophic under-performance.

“But they need to move quicker still, as this report makes clear. In particular, the county can play a key role in helping schools recruit the best teachers and headteachers, a problem that bedevils schools across East Anglia.

“Ofsted’s promised report in 9-12 months’ time will test whether the county has met the challenge.”

Graham White, the secretary of the Suffolk branch of the National Union of Teachers insisted the county council must take “full responsibility” for falling educational attainment.

He called for a to return to a educational system used “decades” ago in which former headteachers and teachers worked in high-level posts at the authority, claiming such an approach drove the county in to the “top 10%” of performing schools in the county.

Meanwhile, Sean Harford, Ofsted’s regional director for the east of England, said there have been no “significant improvements” in pupils’ attainment and no “clear strategy” for how the authority will make improvements following the launch of their flagship ‘Raising the Bar’ initiative in 2012 to reverse falling education standards.

“Too few pupils in Suffolk attend a good or outstanding school, and far too many attend inadequate schools. That is unacceptable,” he said.

“It is disappointing to find that Suffolk County Council has been ineffective in the way it supports schools. The local authority has not tackled weaknesses in schools quickly enough. That just isn’t good enough when the prospects for the young people of the county are at stake.

“In the summer of 2012 the council launched its “Raising the Bar” policy as it recognised the need to raise education achievement. But there have been no significant improvements in pupils’ attainment since that time and there is still no clear strategy for how the local authority will make improvements.

“We will keep working with the council and Suffolk schools so that more get to good or better.”

Yesterday Labour Group leader Sandy Martin criticised the council over an apparent lack of staff and resources to help Suffolk’s schools, calling for urgent reforms.

14 comments

  • @IpswichResident - the problem is acutest at KS2. And they certainly aren't Acedemies! SCC should be ashamed. But I really don't think they care.

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    paul e.

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

  • @ The Leaf Inspector - you've missed nothing because there is nothing. I was going to say 'No strategy whatsoever'. However, I think the plan seems to be to do nothing whilst spouting fatuous guff. Which, I guess, in the strictest sense, is a strategy.

    Report this comment

    paul e.

    Thursday, March 6, 2014

  • My local high school has 22 languages spoken. Great for diversity but will it get the pupils a better education, I doubt it. The reports refer to primary schools but with teachers having to deal with ever increasing language and social problems, when do they have time to teach. The only way is to spend more money and employ top people - if you don't do it when children are young the issues just multiply and it costs society more in the end. For those who criticise teachers, I would say give it a go yourselves - I bet you wouldn't last 5 minutes!

    Report this comment

    Tolly

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

  • And also Ben Gummer isn't the slightest bit interested in teachers plights for fair pensions, pay and working conditions. In his responses to letters regarding this issue he just replies with 'tough luck'. Why the sudden concern in the state of education now Ben?

    Report this comment

    IpswichResident

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

  • The problem is that silly initiatives like 'raising the bar' and 'be the best you can be' just gloss over issues, and to be honest everyone will have forgotten what they are in another 12 months. Last month we had a pretend inspection conducted by the LEA and those sent in to lessons to make judgements on achievement and progress had no idea what they were looking for, and when feeding back to staff couldn't tell them how to improve, and out of the 6 'inspectors' present only 1 of them actually had teaching experience.

    Report this comment

    alittlebitwoolly

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

  • To be balanced ofsted knew the outcome of each schools ofsted report before they had even visited the schools. It's funny how school to school feedback was identical? Odds of teachers making the same mistakes just because they are both in Suffolk = miniscule. Ofsted themselves even commented to schools that they hadn't got worse, the goalposts had been moved in what each criteria was so that it made schools drop down the rankings. The day education is given up on as a political tool can't come soon enough! Educational experts should run education, not journalists that write tabloids. Most of the schools in Suffolk aren't even run by SCC anymore anyway, they answer to the education secretary when they were 'academised' (semi-privatised).

    Report this comment

    IpswichResident

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

  • Do you think Ben Gummer may be posturing as he's in a marginal seat? If you want the real Tory MP's view, I'd check out Dan Poulter's warblings in the latest Kesgrave free rags. "I'm alright Jack" and "Nothing to see here" doesn't even come close I think. As for praising 'Raising The Bar', do me a favour!

    Report this comment

    paul e.

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

  • Sorry Paul e, my remarks should have been addressed to Esco Fiasco.

    Report this comment

    amsterdam81

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

  • I'm sure even teachers don't expect to be paid when they don't turn up for work but why don't they pay parents for the costs they incurs by missing work Paul e.?

    Report this comment

    amsterdam81

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

  • @amsterdam81. Check your facts, teachers do pay a penalty when they strike. They lose pay and they lose pension. Perhaps Gummer should be questioning the backward policies of Gove and the government funding for education.

    Report this comment

    Esco Fiasco

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

  • @IpswichResident - the problem is acutest at KS2. And they certainly aren't Acedemies! SCC should be ashamed. But I really don't think they care.

    Report this comment

    paul e.

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

  • I might have missed this but I did not see anything in this article to indicate exactly what our Council is doing to solve this problem. Do they have a long term strategy or just quick fixes?

    Report this comment

    The Leaf Inspector

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

  • The headmaster of Holbrook senior school seems to be showing the way with longer school days and greater rigor. Its all about leadership and remembering that schools are for pupils not the limited self interest of teachers. Money is important but not the most important thing. How it is used to best effect perhaps is. Why are teachers allowed to strike without penalty but it is considered OK to fine parents who don't send their children to school. Teachers have a great deal to say about pay and conditions but don't seem to accept any responsibility for failure. SCC have never been any good at managing schools. Why not contract the responsibility out to a team from another part of the country who have a proven track record?

    Report this comment

    amsterdam81

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

  • When a teacher strikes, which has been only twice in twenty years, they lose their pay. Parents need to understand that we can only educate their children if they are in school and are supported by parents fully engaged in the education on offer. Perhaps the problem lies with a lack of aspiration with some families in Suffolk but also with the inadequate funding available to turn our struggling, crumbling schools. When comparisons are made with successful schools in London, you must take into account the huge amount of extra funding has been poured into education over the past 10 years. Thanks to the millions spent on closing Suffolk's ' middle schools the council has well and truly taken its' eye off the ball and wasted the resources it had at it's disposal.

    Report this comment

    Conan67

    Monday, March 10, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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