Suffolk: Council bosses must take ‘full responsibility’ after scathing Ofsted report – Graham White
The secretary of the Suffolk branch of the National Union of Teachers insisted Suffolk County Council must take “full responsibility” for falling educational attainment.
Graham White made the comments after a damning Ofsted report heavily criticised the authority over weak leadership and poor support to schools, prompting Ipswich MP Ben Gummer to lead calls for renewed action.
Lisa Chambers, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for education, skills and young people, admitted the report made for “sobering reading” but insisted improved action was already under way to address the main areas of concerns raised in the Ofsted report.
But Mr White said: “You either value education or you don’t, and I have concerns how seriously the authority is valuing education. I think there is a failure in leadership.
“Our schools need additional resources – support for teaching assistants, English as an additional language, professional development – but the authority has cut them back in a move which is not going to raise standards.
“Suffolk County Council cut the learning and improvement service by 50% several years ago and has just done so again, so the report is not surprising.
“The policymakers at the authority made those decisions and must take full responsibility for where education is at the moment. It is their fault. They cannot pass the blame on to people trying their best to improve things in schools, like teachers and headteachers.”
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He called for a to return to an educational system used “decades” ago in which former headteachers and teachers worked in high-level posts at the authority, claiming such an approach drove the county in to the “top 10%” of performing schools in the county.
Meanwhile, the headteacher at Suffolk’s top performing state school has said the report on the failures of the authority was “not unexpected” – claiming it “lacks initiative” to raise standards of education.
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Philip Hurst, the headteacher at Thomas Mills High School in Framlingham, believes Ofsted has “correctly analysed some of the reasons for Suffolk’s relative decline” from its position 20 years ago.
“Fortunately Thomas Mills High School has kept focus on school improvement by concentrating on what matters,” he said.
“As a result, pupils have made exceptional progress.
“The challenge though, to both local authorities and Ofsted, is how to ensure the best people can provide external support without schools losing excellent leaders and teachers.”
Mr Hurst said Suffolk County Council was correct in considering the Hackney Learning Trust model for “accelerated school improvement” but called for a greater focus on retaining and recruiting “the best people”.
“Irrespective of the structures, pupils need the best teachers in front of them,” he said.
“The strategic challenge is how to ensure everyone is pulling in the right direction.”
Despite the bleak outlook portrayed by Ofsted, Mr Hurst remains confident the county can regain its status as a top performing county for education.
“I would urge people not to lose sight of the fact that Suffolk is still an excellent place to live and work and for children to grow up,” he said.
“Suffolk should be ambitious and aim that by 2024 it is one of the highest achieving counties in the country.”