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Suffolk: Review finds “cynicism” among teachers at Raising the Bar programme

PUBLISHED: 13:17 04 June 2014 | UPDATED: 13:17 04 June 2014

Review finds

Review finds "cynicism" towards Raising the Bar programme

Education chiefs say the Raising the Bar programme to improve Suffolk’s under-performing schools is making good progress - but admit “strong cynicism” among some teachers must be addressed.

Reports prepared for the county council’s cabinet reveal results have improved at Key Stage 1 (seven-year-olds), Key Stage 2 (11-year-olds), and Key Stage 4 (16-year-olds) in the last year, though still trail the national average.

However, a review has also identified “strong criticism and cynicism” about Raising the Bar (RtB) among some teachers – despite the principles of the project being “widely accepted”.

One Suffolk teacher said they would be “surprised if there wasn’t a bit of scepticism” given the pace of change in the education system generally.

The Gateway Review recommends looking again at the RtB’s communications approach and a change of tone in messages to the education system to emphasise that “we are all in this together”.

SCC has announced a range of measures in response to the review including a transformation of the Learning and Improvement Service, with a new management team put in place.

A council spokesman said: “We have already made changes to the work we are doing to reflect the findings.

“Key to this is transforming services available to schools, both provided by the county council and externally. Plans are now being finalised to create the Learning Partnership, which has been developed and will be led by schools. And Schools Choice - our new organisation providing traded services to schools – is now up and running.

“We have also already restructured the senior team within the learning and improvement service – which is strengthening our ability to challenge and support schools to improve.”

The Gateway Review also praised aspects of the RtB programme including efforts to bring education closer to the world of work and the Families of Schools initiative in which schools form “improvement groups”.

Geoff Barton, headteacher at King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds, said he would be surprised if there was not some scepticism about the programme, “given how much change takes place in education, both nationally and locally.

“It’s almost inevitable culturally that there is an element of people who are going to be sceptical when they’re invited along to another conference with a slogan like Raising the Bar,” he said.

“I was one of the arch-sceptics at one of the first meetings I went to. But what struck me was that they had marshalled people who weren’t just in education but people from business and industry and it did seem perhaps that there was something different about it.”

Academic results for the year 2013 show that the number of pupils achieving the required standard in reading, writing and maths in Key Stage 1 rose by 3%, 3% and 1% respectively from the year before.

In Key Stage 2 the proportion of pupils who achieved the headline attainment figure rose by 3% between 2012 and 2013, though remains 5% below the national average.

The corresponding measure for Key Stage 4 saw a 3% rise year on year, though also 5% below the national average.

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