School closures blamed for below average results

THE closure of Suffolk's middle schools is a major reason behind pupils below average performance in core subjects, it was claimed last night.

Anthony Bond

THE closure of Suffolk's middle schools is a major reason behind pupils below average performance in core subjects, it was claimed last night.

Key Stage 2 results for 2008 show the number of pupils in Suffolk achieving the required Level 4 or above standard in English, Maths and Science is below the national average.

There were mixed fortunes compared to the county's 2007 results with a slight improvement in the percentage of pupils achieving Level 4 or above in Maths. But in Science pupils fared worse in 2008 than the previous year with a 1% drop.

Teaching unions last nightsaid the abolishment of all 40 middle schools under the Suffolk County Council school organisation review was causing disruption and uncertainty - leading to pupils and teachers leaving the county's education system for neighbouring counties.

But a spokesman for Suffolk County Council said the authority was delighted with the sustained improvement shown and, in particular, in mathematics.

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The figures - released today by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) - show that 79% of 11-year-olds achieved the required Level 4 standard or above in English, 76% in Maths and 86% in Science.

Nationally, 81% achieved Key Stage 4 or above in English, 79% in Maths and 88% in Science. Compared to the 2007 figures, there was a 1% increase in the percentage of pupils achieving Level 4 or above in Maths and a 1% decrease in Science. The percentage for English remained the same.

Keith Anderson, national executive member for NASUWT in Suffolk, said teachers were leaving middle schools to teach in neighbouring counties.

He said: “What we have at the moment is a huge despondency among staff at middle schools and they are moving across to Essex, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk because of the disruption that is taking place. The fact that people are concerned about their jobs and feeling undervalued may well have implications on the results coming from these middle schools.

“I think when you talk to our members, it is so de-motivating when they have spent their lives working in these schools to see them closing and to feel that they are not valued. The most important thing for pupils and education is the teacher in the classroom and if the teacher does not feel that valued and supported then it will impact on how they work.”

Graham White, secretary of Suffolk division of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said: “The NUT would say that if you want to improve results then do not fiddle with the system. With the school organisation review and the abolishment of middle schools it will have an impact on pupils' results. There is no need to change the system. The radical change that is going through is not in the best interest of pupils.

Mr White said he knew of parents moving their children from schools in Suffolk to those in neighbouring counties, such as Cambridgeshire and Essex. And he said because of the disruption, he expected the Key Stage 2 results for 2009 and 2010 to drop.

“Parents are moving their children out of the system, which they actually like,” said Mr White. “It is difficult for parents to decide what to do, but they do not want the uncertainty.”

Education bosses want to replace the current three-tier school system in Suffolk with a countywide two-tier system.

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: “We are delighted that through the dedicated, hard work of staff and pupils in our Suffolk schools, the improvements that have been evident over the past 4 years have been sustained. In particular, the percentage of pupils achieving Level 4 in mathematics has improved for the fourth consecutive year and at a faster rate than schools nationally.

“For the last two years all primary schools in England have been focused on improving the number of pupils who reach the end of the primary stage in their education at 11 years of age, achieving the national expectation of Level 4 in both English and mathematics. In 2008 we saw a 1% improvement for Suffolk schools which equates to almost 100 more pupils achieving this good standard in both English and mathematics than in 2007.”

Percentage of 11-year-olds achieving the required Level 4 or above standard at Key Stage 2 in 2008

Area Science Maths English

Suffolk 86% 76% 79%

Essex 88% 78% 82%

Norfolk 86% 75% 79%

Cambs 85% 76% 79%

National 88% 79% 81%