Raising the Bar: Focused effort to improve support offered to schools

Sue Cook, Director of Children and Young peoples services

Sue Cook, Director of Children and Young peoples services - Credit: Archant

The last time I contributed to the Raising the Bar column, I spoke about the need for us to challenge ourselves and each other on behalf of Suffolk’s children and young people.

Since Ofsted visited Suffolk County Council at the beginning of the year, there has been a focused effort to improve the way the local authority supports and challenges schools to improve. I have also challenged myself and my staff following the Ofsted inspection and we have made a number of changes as a result. Among these changes, we have:

• Appointed a new assistant director for education and learning.

• Finalised and shared the strategic plan for school improvement.

• Implemented a single point of contact for each school from the learning and improvement service.

• Provided intensive training for all school improvement staff.

• Increased the capacity of the improvement team by recruiting new advisors.

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• Revised and implemented a robust quality assurance process.

• Successfully secured a place for Suffolk on a government programme designed to bring the best and brightest headteachers into Suffolk schools.

We have a duty to challenge schools when progress isn’t being made quickly enough. Historically, we have not held schools to account or intervened swiftly enough, and therefore not ensured that Suffolk children can access the very best quality of education that they deserve.

This academic year I have written directly to headteachers, specifically on the standards in their school. As part of this process we have celebrated the good work of school leaders and staff as well as highlighting areas of concern that need addressing.

I know, and Ofsted recognise, that our officers and councillors have an ambitious vision for improved educational achievement in Suffolk schools and I am certain that this is also shared by all those working in education.

I want to make it absolutely clear that challenging a school is not about creating a culture of ‘fear or defeat’, but a culture that embodies honesty and openness with the county council. It is vital that all those involved with the education of children and young people in Suffolk acknowledge the fact that it is not where it should be, and that we have a collective responsibility in addressing this.

It is absolutely crucial that we agree priorities and work together to secure improvement. I am as committed as I was on the day I started this role, to work in partnership with all those committed to achieving excellence for our children and young people. I also remain as committed to challenge where challenge is necessary. I make no apologies for my commitment to being a champion for Suffolk children.