County education chiefs put on the spot at Sudbury town council meeting

Lisa Chambers, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for education and skill

Lisa Chambers, Suffolk County Councils cabinet member for education and skill - Credit: Archant

The county’s education chiefs turned out in force to defend their position to town councillors in Sudbury, who accused the local education authority of “beating up schools” and failing to provide enough support to teachers.

Members of the town council, many of whom are school governors, requested answers to their concerns about the state of education in Suffolk.

In response, cabinet member for education, Lisa Chambers, assistant director of education Nikki Edwards and deputy assistant director Adrian Orr attended the council meeting last Tuesday and faced a barrage of criticisms ranging from lack of support during the schools reorganisation programme to methods used for assessing students and the “stress” teachers were being placed under as a result.

Lesley Ford Platt, a governor at two local primary schools, said: “At a number of council meetings, issues have been raised about the poor performance of schools in Suffolk.

“The major problem I can see as a governor is the whole schools reorganisation and the fact that there was pretty much no support as schools moved to the two-tier system.” Mrs Ford Platt also said the county’s current Raising The Bar initiative to raise educational standards had failed.

She added: “The local education authority appears to be beating schools up all the time. The support is not there and that makes me really anxious.”

In response, Mr Orr said that a significant number of officers had been deployed in supportive roles during the reorganisation.

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He said: “It is the biggest review of schools in England in a decade. In all the other authorities (where reorganisation took place), standards fell but they did not fall in Suffolk.”

He added: “We are not beating up schools – we are just holding up a mirror. It’s not up to us to go into schools and say ‘you need to do this’. It has to be about empowering and enabling them and where necessary, challenging them.

“We are getting quite a lot of flak for being challenging but we can’t say were are OK when Suffolk is fourth from the bottom (in the country for primary education according to Key Stage Two results).”

Other criticisms included the way schools are assessed using data that also includes children with special needs. Councillor Sue Ayres said she was worried about the stress being placed on headteachers.

Nicki Edwards replied: “It’s hard to wave a magic wand and say we can take away the stress.

“We have support staff and our headteachers have their own professional bodies but it’s about giving them enough information so that they feel confident.”