Latest Raising the Bar plan aims to put Suffolk in top 25% of counties nationally for education

Gordon Jones, cabinet member for childrens services, education and skills at Suffolk County Council

Gordon Jones, cabinet member for childrens services, education and skills at Suffolk County Council, speaking at the Raising the Bar Awards 2017. Picture: JAMES FLETCHER

Education chiefs in Suffolk are aiming for the county to be in the top 25% of local authorities nationally in latest plans to improve attainment.

The next phase of the Raising the Bar programme – a project launched in 2012 to combat poor education attainment in the county – was launched in February for the next two years, and aims to build on successes already achieved.

While bosses have said that parents may not notice obvious changes in their child’s school, work is underway that has been transforming attainment.

Now, as part of its plan for the next two years, an ambitious target of being ranked in the top 25% nationally is being eyed.

Suffolk is currently placed somewhere in the bottom 50% nationally, depending on which measures are used.

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Gordon Jones, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for children’s services, education and skills, said: “That is a significant challenge. Is it achievable? I don’t know, but I think it’s right to set a target that everyone has to work jolly hard to achieve. I think we are all up for it and I think that’s right for the children of Suffolk.”

To hit the rating, work has been ongoing on upping attainment levels in maths, as well as helping boost attainment in Ipswich through the Department for Education-chosen Opportunity Area – one of 12 in the country designed to significantly improve results.

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Elsewhere, a new website, I Can Be A, has been launched to offer information on career opportunities for youngsters, while more schools are working together to share programmes and ideas that improve attainment.

Other programmes will support school governors, wider teaching of ‘life skills’ and research schools training teachers.

The latest plan had drawn some criticism from labour councillors who said the programme lacked details and questioned the funding for it.

When the plan was launched, Labour’s education spokesman Jack Abbott said: “I question whether they truly believe in their own strategy anymore. This is a plan with no detail, no focussed ideas for improvement and no costings – it is half-hearted at best.

“They say they are passionate about improving Suffolk’s education system but allocate just 0.07% of their budget to this scheme against a back drop of real-term budget cuts, a teacher recruitment and retention crisis and continual failings in Key Stage 2.

But Mr Jones said that 87% of Suffolk schools being ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ in Ofsted inspections compared to figures in the 60% region before Raising the Bar, showed it was working.

He said: “I think it’s a collective success. That’s the way I like it – that way it is more sustainable, and that’s what it needs to be.

“We need to have a culture in Suffolk where success breeds success, and confidence, and children are hitting their achievements and objectives.”

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