Suffolk: Ofsted chief’s words of support for schools

Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector and head of Ofsted, at Copleston High School, Ips

Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector and head of Ofsted, at Copleston High School, Ipswich. - Credit: Andrew Partridge

SCHOOL leadership must be more aspirational and the quality of teaching must be stronger in order for standards in Suffolk to improve.

That’s the message from Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools Sir Michael Wilshaw, who was speaking during a visit to Ipswich to meet with heads from the town after being invited by MP Ben Gummer.

Sir Michael, head of Ofsted since January 2012, was joined by Suffolk’s education chief Graham Newman at Copleston High School for the session yesterday.

After addressing the cohort of heads from around the town, Sir Michael said that it was up to schools to raise standards - which have seen Suffolk plummet down the key stage two and four league tables - but also called on the county council to offer more support and for parents to take greater involvement.

He said: “I think expectations have been too low, I think the support the local authority has given schools has not been as good as it should have been and I think headteachers also have got to make sure they have high expectations of their students.

“We are in charge of monitoring school standards - really it’s now up to schools to deliver those high standards. Schools have much greater autonomy, freedom and independence than ever before - all the resources are now are now in school and it’s up to the leaders of the schools in Suffolk and the teachers in the schools in Suffolk to deliver higher standards than are being achieved at the moment.

“Parents should be concerned. They want to send their children to good schools - nothing less than a good school and they want to send their children to schools with high levels of attainment which compare with the best in the rest of England.

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“The key things are always the key things in any part of the country - good leadership, determined to raise standards, and good teaching and the key role of a good leader is to monitor the quality of teaching in the classroom and to make sure that professional development and training programmes are good for all teachers within the school. If that happens - if leadership is good, the quality of teaching is good - then standards will rise.” He said Suffolk’s results had been “pretty poor” and that the county council “has got to look to itself” to see what it can do to support heads and challenge them to do better.

He added: “All heads throughout England face the same challenges. The challenges here are the same as any other part of England but if you look at the demographics in Suffolk, if you look at the numbers of children on free school meals, it’s not as challenging as elsewhere in other parts of the country which are doing better. Therefore Suffolk needs to look at the reasons why standards aren’t as high as they should be.”

“The reasons why standards aren’t as good as they should be are the usual reasons - leadership that’s not aspirational enough and a quality of teaching that’s not good enough.”

Mr Gummer said he was confident that the county’s results would improve and was pleased Sir Michael had made the trip to Suffolk.

He said: “You cannot say anything else other than the results that we have had through are shameful and no excuse is good enough.

“Of course there are reasons, many reasons, but you can’t make excuses for it because every time we do that we are failing a year group.”

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