Holbrook Academy head agrees Suffolk County Council’s school risk ratings should be made public

Simon Letman, headteacher at Holbrook Academy

Simon Letman, headteacher at Holbrook Academy - Credit: Archant

Suffolk headteachers have given a mixed response following the publication of the red, amber, greeen risk ratings of nearly 300 Suffolk schools, by this newspaper.

Key Stage 2 results for Suffolk are being published today

Key Stage 2 results for Suffolk are being published today - Credit: PA

Their views range from backing the disclosure of information to supporting the rating created by Suffolk County Council.

Simon Letman, headteacher of Holbrook Academy, a green-rated school, said he “wholeheartedly agreed” that the information should be available for parents.

“We live in a society where we have a lot more accountability, the concept of catchment is a thing of the past – parents have choice, quite rightly, and when they are making choices it should be an informed choice, parents should have as much information as possible,” he said.

“Ofsted reports are in the public domain, people can find out how much I earn, how much we spend and so on. All the information is in the public domain and quite rightly.”

County Upper School headteacher Vicky Neale.

County Upper School headteacher Vicky Neale. - Credit: Gregg Brown

He said schools should be accountable and transparent in the same way as other publicly funded institutions.

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Geoff Barton, headteacher of King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds, backed Suffolk County Council. He said it was important for the council to be able to talk to headteachers in confidence about how they are doing.

He said: “I think it shows that the council is doing what it be should doing – some public money for education comes through the county council and they have a right to monitor what the quality is. It allows them to put resources into schools that need great support and allows those (who do not require it) to be left alone.”

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He added that it was a “good process” and used the example of a critical staff appraisal which he argued, like the ratings, should not be made public.

Geoff Barton, headteacher at King Edward VI Upper School in Bury St Edmunds

Geoff Barton, headteacher at King Edward VI Upper School in Bury St Edmunds - Credit: Archant

• You can see the full list in today’s paper, or sign up for a single copy of the e-edition to read the digitial versionVicky Neale is headteacher of County Upper School which is part of the Bury St Edmunds All-Through Trust, which includes primary, middle and secondary schools.

She said the ratings were “not any help at all” and questioned the “crude” use of data to produce them. She also asked why they do not include results from the English Baccalaureate, the government’s high-profile set of exams which include English, mathematics and science subjects.

“There is nothing in them which is not in the public domain in a more objective way,” she said. “Suffolk is not an effective local education authority so why would parents want to trust its judgement on schools?”

Andrew Berry, principal of the Tilian Partnership of schools, which includes Bardwell, Gislingham, Old Newton and Palgrave primaries also said there were “flaws” in the ratings system.

He criticised the system for “not representing” the true performance across a school because of relying on results from specific year groups.

“Data can give some useful points for discussion to identify areas for improvement but data does not give answers on its own. It is wise to remember the quote ‘there are three types of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics’”, he said.

The Suffolk Primary Head Teachers’ Association (SPHA) said it supports the county council in its vision for all schools to be rated by Ofsted as ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ but said the RAG ratings could act as a “distraction” for headteachers.

Cheryl Singleton and Sarah Wood, acting chairmen of the group, said in a statement: “As the RAG rating does not take into account contextual data, headteachers and governors do not see how this system positively impacts on any school or contributes to raising standards. It can potentially serve as a distraction from our commitment to school improvement. And local authority support may not be directed to the priorities outlined by the schools themselves, but rather purely in response to the RAG analysis data.

“From September 2015 the way primary schools assess children and the data that schools produce has changed nationally and it is the hope of SPHA members that we can move on from the debate around the validity and use of the RAG system to a more equal and ultimately more effective partnership to raise standards in schools.

“Headteachers and governors are acutely aware of the challenges that their schools face and welcome support from the local authority in the form of quality leadership and teaching development opportunities, expert advice from their representatives and support when dealing with challenging circumstances.

“As a profession we are committed to being accountable as all children deserve the best education. All headteachers and governors are working to improve their schools no matter what Ofsted grade or RAG colour they currently are.”

They advised parents who wanted to know more about the RAG ratings to contact their school.

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