Suffolk: Efforts to lift education standards recognised by PM

David Cameron visits UCS, Ipswich

David Cameron visits UCS, Ipswich - Credit: Archant

DAVID Cameron yesterday praised Suffolk County Council for its “hard work” in trying to raise education performance.

During his visit to University Campus Suffolk in Ipswich the Prime Minister said he was aware of how hard the authority was working to “turn schools around” after the county slumped to third from bottom for SATs results and 142nd out of 151 authorities for the most recent GCSE results.

He also acknowledged that the council-led shift to a county-wide two-tier system – which involves the closure of the last remaining middle schools – “might have had an impact” on improvement.

Mr Cameron said: “I know the county council is working very hard to raise standards in our schools and turn them around.

“This Government has put in place a number of things that can help you do that. More academy schools, free schools, a tougher curriculum, a very clear set of results publication. All of those things can make a difference. I know the county council is going to work very hard to make sure that schools in Suffolk do better.” Mr Cameron added: “I don’t think this is a funding issue. Suffolk schools have been performing less well than others even though we have maintained the per pupil funding. So it is not principally an issue of funding, this is an issue about performance, expectations and setting high aspirations for our children.

“I think it is a variety of factors. Obviously there has been a lot of changes in the structure of schools in Suffolk which might have had an impact.”

Graham Newman, the council’s head of education, welcomed the feedback and said Mr Cameron was “already on-record” with his support for its Raising the Bar project.

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Mr Newman said: “We have continued to improve, which is remarkable, considering the reorganisation that has taken place here. I think we have done pretty well, actually.”

Last night Graham White, county secretary of the Suffolk branch of the National Union of Teachers, said Mr Cameron “seemed to believe his own spin”. He said: “Academies and free schools do not raise standards. Where is his evidence of this in Suffolk that they do? Many academies in Suffolk have either stood still or declined in grading.

“Suffolk County Council has not raised standards as much as others because it has ignored the advice of teachers and pursued a cuts agenda, reducing support services and pursuing the wasteful school reorganisation review which involves closing good, successful schools.”

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