Suffolk's education revolution

A MAJOR shake-up of the education system for 14 to 19-year-olds is being planned in Suffolk, it has emerged.The biggest change in secondary education for 30 years could see some schools close or join together in federations and new educational centres and institutions created.

A MAJOR shake-up of the education system for 14 to 19-year-olds is being planned in Suffolk, it has emerged.

The biggest change in secondary education for 30 years could see some schools close or join together in federations and new educational centres and institutions created.

Suffolk County Council is pioneering the bid to stop a growing number of youngsters dropping out of education at an early age.

Tony Lewis, the council's education spokesman, said the status quo "was not an option" and that some radical changes could be introduced.


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"Too many youngsters are not in education, training or a job related to their training - and we have got to do something about that," he said.

The council's learning for life overview and scrutiny committee will discuss a development plan tomorrow, which outlines a number of options for the future of education for teenagers.

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The plan follows an Ofsted inspection of 14-19 education in Suffolk between October and December last year, which outlined a number of weaknesses and the need for change.

They included "intense competition" between schools and colleges causing a lack of collaboration and "restricted breadth and choice" in some sixth forms at rural schools.

The options in Suffolk's consultation paper include the formation of consortiums between schools, with partners sharing some management functions, or school federations, which would have shared budgets, a joint management team and a common governing body.

Other models suggested are 14-19 centres, involving a reorganisation of existing secondary schools to cater just for pupils between those ages, integrated 11-19 institutions - completely new centres which would swallow some existing schools and provide a more comprehensive curriculum for teenagers - and new 16-19 centres, separate from 11-16 schools.

Mr Lewis said the council, which is working on the project with the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), was likely to draw on aspects of each of the suggested models to plot the way forward.

"Suffolk is so big and with such diverse communities, it is hard to see how we are going to follow one particular pattern," he said.

"But I don't think the status quo is an option because, at the moment, we are not delivering.

"Suffolk should have more young people at 17 or 18 engaged in learning or employment with training and we haven't - we have got to get to the bottom of why this is happening and what we can do about it"

Mr Lewis said many youngsters were being lost from the system between schools and colleges and the answer could include losing some schools in the new set-up.

"The options have come about in part through discussions with schools. Some are saying they can't see a way they can deliver what is required without big changes, and that may mean they are affected in a radical way.

"We could even create some structures where certain schools may not be there anymore."

He added the plans would be closely followed by a Government review of the whole secondary school stock in the county, which has already been carried out elsewhere in the country.

The county's plan for the future of 14-19 education will be presented to the executive committee in July for approval.

Neil Watts, headteacher of Northgate High School, Ipswich, which has one of the biggest sixth forms in Suffolk, said: "We welcome the fact we are being consulted on the best way forward. There is some excellent post-16 provision in Suffolk, but certain parts are not working as well as others.

"What this review is trying to do is bring all providers, be it sixth forms, colleges or training providers, up to the same high standards."

Richard Hewitt, headteacher of Hartismere High School, in Eye, said: "In Suffolk, we are very good for pupils aged 16 but we don't deliver between 16 and 19. We need to have a far greater staying on rate.

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