Suffolk: Don’t blame the headteachers over poor results say NUT

HEADTEACHERS say they need more support from the local authority if they are to raise attainment after the county delivered a shocking set of SATs results this week.

Graham White, secretary of the Suffolk NUT, says the county council must invest more in classroom resources in order to make the required improvements and that the blame for poor results cannot lie with teachers.

And school heads have said Suffolk needs to do more to attract better teachers and give them more support in order for them to play their part in raising attainment.

The comments come just days after the alarming results of the county’s Key Stage Two exams were revealed, which saw Suffolk ranked the joint-third worst authority in England.

Mr White said: “I don’t think we can blame teachers, I really don’t. Clearly teachers need to do the very best they can for all the pupils they teach and clearly they need to have the resources to enable the pupils to do the very best they can.”

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Paul Tebbutt, head at Hillside Community Primary School in Ipswich, said he had some “marvellous” members of his team and there was a shared desire among Suffolk teachers to improve attainment.

Mr Tebbutt, who retires at the end of this term, said he and some Ipswich colleagues had travelled the length of Britain to seek inspiration and suggested the same backing was not accessible in Suffolk.

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He said: “I’m disappointed for all the schools but I have had to go down to London to get advice. The south-west cluster of heads have been and looked at schools in London, Liverpool and Newcastle because we are not getting the support from Suffolk.

“The local authority has been very inward-looking.

“It’s down to all of us and - and I’m not excusing myself at all - it’s everybody. The problem is more convoluted than just shouting at heads and saying ‘you have got to improve standards’ - that’s been the tone that we have heard. We want to improve, that’s all we want to do.”

Geoff Barton, headteacher at King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds, said he had found it much harder to recruit high quality teachers in Suffolk since he moved from his previous post at a school in York 15 years ago.

He said: “What I’m saying is to get every classroom with a top-notch teacher is much harder here than it is in, say, Cambridge. The trouble for Suffolk is there is a problem with people thinking we are a backwater. We need to be much sharper in attracting teachers to Suffolk and showing the real benefits of the county.”

Graham Newman, Suffolk County Council’s head of education, said he would be initiating a seven point action plan in the new year to engage more directly with schools and raise attainment across the board.

He said: “When you become a headteacher it’s more than just knowing about teaching - it’s about taking people along with you and recognising these sorts of issues that are going on in the school and motivating the people under your wing to raise their game.”

He said it was for school leaders and governing bodies to push improvement forward and that Suffolk’s most improved schools would be working to develop the role of headteachers in challenging and supporting other schools.

He said improvement strategies also included heads and governing bodies setting higher expectations, tracking pupil progress more closely and introducing more rigorous performance management of teachers and heads, related to children’s progress.

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