Suffolk: Ipswich MP Ben Gummer leads calls for Suffolk County Council education chiefs to act quicker after damning Ofsted report
PUBLISHED: 07:53 05 March 2014 | UPDATED: 07:53 05 March 2014
Education chiefs in Suffolk need to “move quicker” to improve the county’s schools after they were condemned for “damaging” the life chances of children in a scathing Ofsted report.
Ipswich MP Gummer led renewed calls for Suffolk County Council to overhaul education standards on the day the authority was criticised by Ofsted as “ineffective” in its leadership and “weak” in its support to schools.
The report attacked county council officers for not intervening quickly enough in failing schools and said the “life chances” of children were being damaged following a below-average set of Key Stage Two and Four results.
The letter said: “The authority does not have a strategic plan to show how the Learning and Improvement Service can contribute to the council’s future vision.
“As a result, too many school leaders remain unaware of the authority’s role in bringing about rapid improvement, or what their contribution should be to realising the council’s ambitions.”
It added: “They have been equally tardy in addressing ineffective leadership in maintained schools. As a result, there has been a rise in the number of schools judged to be inadequate by Ofsted.”
It was reported in December how 33% of Suffolk children, some 30,000 pupils, do not attend a primary school rated “good” or “outstanding”.
It came after it emerged nearly one fifth of 33 schools visited by inspectors and 25 schools surveyed over the phone were judged as inadequate in September.
Lisa Chambers, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for education, skills and young people, admitted the report made for “sobering reading” but insisted improved action was already under way to address the main areas of concerns raised in the Ofsted report.
Last night, Mr Gummer, who in October was chosen by education secretary Michael Gove to be his parliamentary private secretary in a government reshuffle, said it was a “damning report”.
“Ofsted could not be more clear about the failings at Suffolk County Council,” he said.
“The simple truth is that Suffolk has been left behind by much of the rest of the country, which has improved its schools more quickly and more rigorously than in our own county.
“I want to make clear the fault for Suffolk’s appalling performance is shared by many and goes back a long way.
“To their credit, Mark Bee’s administration is the first in decades to attempt to do something serious about this continued and catastrophic under-performance.
“But they need to move quicker still, as this report makes clear. In particular, the county can play a key role in helping schools recruit the best teachers and headteachers, a problem that bedevils schools across East Anglia.
“Ofsted’s promised report in 9-12 months’ time will test whether the county has met the challenge.”
He called for a to return to a educational system used “decades” ago in which former headteachers and teachers worked in high-level posts at the authority, claiming such an approach drove the county in to the “top 10%” of performing schools in the county.
Meanwhile, Sean Harford, Ofsted’s regional director for the east of England, said there have been no “significant improvements” in pupils’ attainment and no “clear strategy” for how the authority will make improvements following the launch of their flagship ‘Raising the Bar’ initiative in 2012 to reverse falling education standards.
“Too few pupils in Suffolk attend a good or outstanding school, and far too many attend inadequate schools. That is unacceptable,” he said.
“It is disappointing to find that Suffolk County Council has been ineffective in the way it supports schools. The local authority has not tackled weaknesses in schools quickly enough. That just isn’t good enough when the prospects for the young people of the county are at stake.
“In the summer of 2012 the council launched its “Raising the Bar” policy as it recognised the need to raise education achievement. But there have been no significant improvements in pupils’ attainment since that time and there is still no clear strategy for how the local authority will make improvements.
“We will keep working with the council and Suffolk schools so that more get to good or better.”
Yesterday Labour Group leader Sandy Martin criticised the council over an apparent lack of staff and resources to help Suffolk’s schools, calling for urgent reforms.