Suffolk: Headteachers unite in battle to improve grades

Libby Brown headteacher at Kyson Primary, Woodbridge.

Libby Brown headteacher at Kyson Primary, Woodbridge. - Credit: Andrew Partridge

A COMMANDING new group of headteachers are aiming to seize a leading role in reversing poor educational performance in Suffolk.

Under the banner of the Suffolk Primary Headteachers’ Association (SPHA), the group wants to put Suffolk’s primary schools among the best in the country within the next five years.

The association revealed its objectives as Suffolk County Council (SCC) moves ahead with its Raising the Bar inquiry into Key Stage Two exam grades

Committee member and headteacher of Kyson Primary School, in Woodbridge, Libby Brown, said the group could, and should, be central to plans for a significant improvement in results.

Despite progress in maths and English results at Key Stage Two, Suffolk has dropped down the national league table to be ranked the third worst performing authority in the country.

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Miss Brown, who has spent 32 years in education, said primary school headteachers were ready to face the challenges of the future and equip all children with the skills necessary to be “successful life-long learners”. She added: “Any parent would have the right to be concerned. It’s all incredibly disheartening and disappointing.

“Being third from bottom makes it sound like our schools are failing. I would say that is not the case - but we want to improve Suffolk’s situation.

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“League tables change with the cohort from year to year. They are of no use to anyone working in schools who want to see that children are motivated, engaged and learning. League tables put huge pressure on people to ‘teach to test’, which we have to work hard to resist.”

Miss Brown said the association welcomed the ongoing School Organisation Review (SOR) in Suffolk and hoped it would be beneficial. She also praised the council’s decision to offer full-time early education to all children from the September following their fourth birthday, rather than the term following the child’s fifth birthday.

As revealed by The EADT last month, the county has significantly less money to spend on education per pupil than in other parts of the country, with around £4,700 to spend on each child annually, compared to the £8,000 available in some London boroughs.

Miss Brown said: “We have 420 pupils. If our funding was in line with the national average, we’d have another quarter-of-a-million pounds. Suffolk is at the bottom end of the pile in funding as well as performance. It does make a difference.

“We have never had an association of primary headteachers, probably because we haven’t needed to when we’ve been successful.

“We know the local authority and its officers very well. We all want the same thing.”

The SPHA is hoping to number 300 as headteachers from the north and west of the county sign up with the shared goal of providing the highest quality of teaching and learning in partnership with parents and the community, and using the best sources available.

In the last week, Suffolk’s key stage two results were branded “just awful” by the county council’s chief executive, as the Raising the Bar inquiry reached its half-way stage.

As part of the SOR, the council is bringing the remaining three-tier schools in line with the rest of the county’s two-tier system.

A spokesman commended the establishment of the SPHA, saying: “We very much welcome the creation of this new association. “Raising education attainment in schools is everyone’s business, including the county council, schools, governors, business leaders and the media. But what is vital is that headteachers play a leading role. This new organisation will help primary school heads do exactly that.”

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