Suffolk: Exams boost for schools as SATS rise in areas where reorganisation has started

EDUCATION chiefs in Suffolk were celebrating today as new figures suggested that controversial changes to school structures may be improving exam results.

New figures show that SATS results for key stage two pupils – 11-plus – have improved dramatically.

And some of the most dramatic improvements have come in areas that have recently been reorganised from three to two-tier schools.

However opposition councillors and a union leader, while congratulating pupils and teachers on the improved results, were not convinced that the reorganisation was a major factor.

Schools, such as those in Haverhill and Lowestoft which started reorganisation from three tiers to two tiers in 2007, have achieved a 12% improvement in writing and a 6% jump in maths – in both cases double the rate of improvement across the rest of Suffolk.

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The figures also reveal significant key stage two gains in schools across the county, with the percentage of students achieving the expected grade (level 4 and above) increasing in writing (7%) and maths (3%).

Students in 15 schools across the county aced their SATS with 100% of them achieving level four or above in reading and maths.

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And schools in more deprived parts of the county did equally well, with as much as 30% gains in reading and 25% gains in maths achieved.

Graham Newman, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for education and young people, said: “These are by far the most encouraging education results we have seen in Suffolk for some years.

“They represent a tremendous amount of hard work by our schools, the county council’s Learning and Improvement Service and, of course, students.

“I am particularly pleased to see schools in Haverhill and Lowestoft, which have gone through the whole Schools Organisation Review process, achieving such incredible results in such a short time.

“This provides the clearest evidence yet of the need to complete the reorganisation programme throughout the county.

“There isn’t a part of Suffolk which doesn’t have some positive news to take away from today. I hope this is just the start of great improvements to come.”

Opposition Liberal Democrat leader David Wood said: “I am delighted to hear about the improvement – the children and their teachers should be congratulated.

“Now it is very important to look at improving results at secondary level – that is where there is real concern in Suffolk.

“So far as school reorganisation is concerned, I would be very careful about drawing too many conclusions from one year’s results. We need to see results over several years to know how that has gone – and it has caused a great deal of disruption.”

Labour’s Bryony Rudkin was also pleased to hear about the results, and said it was the schools and pupils who deserved credit.

She pointed out that the council had put extra resources into improving results and said it was important that these resources were maintained.

Mrs Rudkin added: “It is not easy to say what the effect of the school reorganisation has been on these results. What I do know is that it has caused a great deal of disruption to families and communities.

“We have said that whatever the result of the reorganisation, it could have been handled much better – the disruption has been really quite serious.” And Graham White from the National Union of Teachers felt the reorganisation was irrelevant to the improvement.

He said: “It is good to hear that the results are better. That is a tribute to the teachers and pupils who are getting better at taking examinations.

“We feel that SATS are not good for education – but so long as they are there it is good to see an improvement like this.

“I do not accept that the schools reorganisation has had anything to do with these improved results, I think it is down to the work of the teachers and their pupils.”

Key points from the findings:

Early Years (five year olds)

Since 2009 there has been a 9% improvement in Early Years attainment.

The gap between the lowest 20% of children and the rest cut by a third to 6% since 2009.

Key Stage One (seven year olds)

The percentage of students achieving level 2b and above or more is increasing by 1% in reading, writing and maths, placing Suffolk in line with, and in writing and maths above, the national average.

Key Stage Two (11 year olds)

Since 2009 there has been a sustained year on year improvement in writing and maths. Standards in writing have leapt 14% since 2009.

There has been a 6% increase in the number of students jumping two attainment levels in maths in the last year.

There have been significant improvements by schools which will be undergoing reorganisation during the second and third phases of the school reorganisation programme – through targeted support.

The number of schools achieving below expected levels (known as the ‘floor’) has fallen by 50% from 22 to 11 since 2010, as a result of targeted support.

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