Team to boost school results

A TEAM of trouble-shooters is being sent into Suffolk’s schools to help stem slipping standards at GCSE level.

Over the last year, one of the county’s most highly-respected former headteachers has been working with the head of one of the top-performing schools in Suffolk to help drive up standards.

Neil Watts, who retired as head of Northgate High School in Ipswich last summer, has been working with Great Cornard Upper School head Mike Foley to help boost results at schools.

Suffolk’s year-on-year improvement in GCSE results has not been as marked as that seen in other similar counties – including Cambridgeshire and Norfolk – and the county council has been trying to push up standards at both primary and secondary schools.

Graham Newman, cabinet member for children and young people, said that while much of the effort was concentrated on boosting key stage two results (for 11-year-olds), improving GCSE results was also very important which was where Mr Watts and Mr Foley came in.

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He said: “They are going into schools, meeting heads and teachers and seeing what they can learn from other schools, and also what kind of things they could help out with.

“We want to learn from best practice from schools around Suffolk.”

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There was no formal report being prepared, but as the team came across significant issues – both positive and otherwise – they were reporting back to the education authority.

Mr Newman said: “I am confident GCSE results in Suffolk will be better this year than they were last year.

“What we don’t know is whether that improvement will be any greater than in similar counties – and we won’t be able to fully judge that until the league tables are published early next year.”

Mr Watts has spent about two days a week visiting schools over the last year, and will continue next term.

He said that with changes to school structures giving individual schools more autonomy, there was not always the same level of interaction with other schools than in the past.

But some schools – like Kesgrave and Farlingaye – had taken on a specific training role for other schools.

He said: “There is a great deal that schools can learn from each other.

“Some have specialist knowledge in some areas – and we are helping them to share that knowledge.”

Mr Watts was head of Northgate High for 17 years until he stepped down last July – during that time the school was consistently the best-performing school in Ipswich for both GCSE and A-level results and was recognised as one of the best in Suffolk.

Mr Watts said: “There is a great deal of good practice in Suffolk. What we are trying to do is share that and bring our own perspective to the issues. It is very satisfying to be able to help schools improve in this way.”

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