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What Suffolk's revamped education improvement project will focus on

PUBLISHED: 17:15 11 February 2020 | UPDATED: 15:40 12 February 2020

Raising the Bar priorities will include literacy rates and KS2 performance. Picture: THINKSTOCK

Raising the Bar priorities will include literacy rates and KS2 performance. Picture: THINKSTOCK

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Education chiefs are to form a task force to revamp a key strategy which aims to raise educational standards in Suffolk.

Mary Evans said all Suffolk children were supported regardless of whether they were taught in academies or LA schools. Picture: GREGG BROWNMary Evans said all Suffolk children were supported regardless of whether they were taught in academies or LA schools. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Suffolk County Council's Raising the Bar strategy was launched in 2012 in a bid to achieve improvements in education attainment and performance.

The latest phase runs from 2018 to the end of 2020, meaning a refresh is needed.

Now, education cabinet member Mary Evans has confirmed a cross-party task group will be set up this Easter to look at priority areas, with a full strategy to be rolled out from January 1.

Adrian Orr, assistant director for education and learning, said there were some key areas of focus - ensuring all schools achieved the benchmark numbers at Key Stage 2, work to improve literacy skills and addressing the impact of poverty and deprivation on childrens' opportunities.

He added: "A child's ability to read at the age of 11 is the single biggest indicator of economic development at 30.

"We have had real improvements in trajectory but it's still not quite there."

When Raising the Bar was launched the majority of schools were under local authority control, but since then most are now part of academy trusts, which are funded and monitored by central government.

Other changes include a soaring number of pupils with special educational needs, changes to Ofsted's inspection process and an overhaul of performance measurements with the new GCSE grading system and Progress 8 measurements.

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Mrs Evans said they all needed to be reflected in the new plan, and the council would not abandon academies from improvement projects.

"These are all Suffolk children, and we run a system where it's not about just looking after maintained schools and leaving academies to the Regional Schools Commissioner," she said.

"We engage with them at various levels because the drive is always to the children of Suffolk, and there is no end to the improvement journey."

According to the council, the percentage of children achieving the expected KS2 standard has increased from 57% to 62% since 2017, although the expected percentage securing grade 5 GCSE results in English and maths is at 62% - below the 65% national average.

As well as the priorities already outlined, measures could also include early years children.

The policy development panel task group is expected to launch this spring and return with some proposals towards the end of the summer, which can then be planned over the autumn for a rollout from January next year.

Penny Otton, leader of the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent group, said: "Until the government realises that schools cannot continue to cope with such severe reduction in their funding, we will continue to see issues.

"It is essential that all schools across Suffolk continue to raise standards, and it's right that the council should support them in doing so.

"However, headteachers are being faced with increasing pastoral responsibilities, mental health problems in young people and changes to the curriculum.

"I would hope the new "Raising the Bar" strategy will also take these into account."

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