The number of “good” or “outstanding” schools in Ipswich has plummeted in the last four years, a Star investigation has discovered.

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Key Stage Two boost

Overall Key Stage Two results in Ipswich primary schools between 2009 and 2012 have improved.

Among the highlights were Level 4 writing tests in north Ipswich, which were up by 22.9pc during the four-year period, and Level 5 English was up by 16pc in south Ipswich.

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: “Schools serving some of the most disadvantaged communities in the town are showing significant rates of improvement, and doing better than those in some of the more affluent areas of Suffolk.”

Graham Newman, cabinet member for education and young people at Suffolk County Council, added: “Many Ipswich primary schools have done amazingly well in the 2012 Key Stage Two tests – results that if replicated throughout the county would see Suffolk much further up the league table of local authorities.

“The irony is that a number of these schools serve some of the least affluent wards in our county – where household incomes are low, English is not always the first language, and there are often higher levels of special needs.”

And according to Ofsted figures, the apparent slump in standards is in stark contrast to the national picture.

The percentage of secondary and primary schools in the Ipswich parliamentary constituency labelled as “good” or “outstanding” has fallen from 74 per cent in 2009 to just 55pc in 2012.

Meanwhile, the number of “satisfactory” or “inadequate” schools has nearly doubled, rising from 26pc to 45pc during the same period.

In the Central Suffolk and North Ipswich constituency, 71pc of schools were rated as “outstanding” or “good” in 2009 – a figure which fell to 65pc in 2012.

Meanwhile, the proportion of “satisfactory” or poorly performing schools rose from 30pc to 35pc in the same period.

In contrast, figures for the whole country showed an improvement in the number of good or outstanding schools – from 61pc in 2009 to 66pc in 2012.

Over that four-year period, Ofsted has significantly changed the way it measures performance and at the beginning of last year made its criteria even more stringent, making it harder for schools to gain an outstanding report.

Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere said the statistics should act as a “wake up call”.

“I am not surprised given the quite shocking results in the SATs we got last year,” he said.

“The county has to recognise it has taken its eye off the ball. Perhaps this is another bit of evidence that the county council needs to up its game.

“These figures should be a real wake-up call. You only get one shot at education.”

However Ipswich MP Ben Gummer was positive that improvements would soon be seen in schools in the town.

He said he was aware Ofsted had tightened up its criteria and did not take society deprivation into consideration, which he supported as he believed children from poorer backgrounds should have the same chances as those from more affluent parts of the county.

He added: “There are some exceptional heads in Ipswich who are doing great work. That is why we are putting additional money in.

“With the calibre of some of the heads in Ipswich and the difference they are making, we are going to see a change. We are about to see a significant turnaround in Ipswich.”

Mr Gummer has invited Ofsted’s chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw to meet with headteachers in Ipswich on Friday, so they can quiz the man in charge of the school inspections. Sir Michael will visit two schools and conduct a question and answer session at Copleston High School.

He added: “The schools in Ipswich are doing so well and there is a degree of aspiration which has not been there for a long time. I want them [the heads] to be able to talk with him directly about the inspections.”

Dr Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, said it was “encouraging” that two thirds of schools in his constituency were considered to be “good” or “outstanding”.

“That is a tribute to the hard work of teachers and governors,” he said.

“The Ofsted criteria has changed and it is very difficult to compare results effectively. There has been change in north Ipswich from three tier to two tier systems. The county council has moved to support teachers and help put more resources into schools.

“I’m fairly confident that after changing from one system to another, we should be in a better place going forward.”

Union representatives claimed the figures could be explained by the change in the Ofsted Framework.

Graham White, secretary of Suffolk NUT, said: “I’m not surprised (by the figures). There is now much more focus on exceptional progress. It is making it harder for those schools who have a slightly more difficult intake.”

2 comments

  • What this article fails to highlight is just how much the Ofsted criteria has changed - what was considered 'outstanding' a couple of years back is now just 'good' and what was 'good' then is now considered 'requires improvement' (after getting rid of 'satisfactory' as a possible grading). It is now almost impossible to be classed as 'outstanding' with the new much harsher Ofsted criteria. On top of this the level of change the coalition government are forcing on to schools is unprecedented - and undermining all the good work that is being done in schools. These figures also don't take into account the significant levels of deprivation found across Suffolk, particularly within Ipswich and Lowestoft, which are not a factor in all education authorities nationally.

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    alittlebitwoolly

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

  • I'm sure I am not alone in being mystified by the results. One assumes the tables are based on an objective assesment of available data and therefore it would seem clear that Suffolk, however good or bad, is on average worse than most other parts of the country. I don't remember Suffolk ever being high in the ratings over the past 50 years and this reflects more on the leadership provided by the local authority than anything else as it can't be blamed on individual schools or school staff it suggests there is a lack of direction or resources.

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    amsterdam81

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

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