Suffolk: Council bosses must take ‘full responsibility’ after scathing Ofsted report – Graham White

Graham White, he secretary of the Suffolk branch of the National Union of Teachers, insisted Suffolk County Council must take full responsibility for falling educational attainment after a damning Ofsted report. Graham White, he secretary of the Suffolk branch of the National Union of Teachers, insisted Suffolk County Council must take full responsibility for falling educational attainment after a damning Ofsted report.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014
7:42 AM

The secretary of the Suffolk branch of the National Union of Teachers insisted Suffolk County Council must take “full responsibility” for falling educational attainment.

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Graham White made the comments after a damning Ofsted report heavily criticised the authority over weak leadership and poor support to schools, prompting Ipswich MP Ben Gummer to lead calls for renewed action.

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.

But Mr White said: “You either value education or you don’t, and I have concerns how seriously the authority is valuing education. I think there is a failure in leadership.

“Our schools need additional resources – support for teaching assistants, English as an additional language, professional development – but the authority has cut them back in a move which is not going to raise standards.

“Suffolk County Council cut the learning and improvement service by 50% several years ago and has just done so again, so the report is not surprising.

“The policymakers at the authority made those decisions and must take full responsibility for where education is at the moment. It is their fault. They cannot pass the blame on to people trying their best to improve things in schools, like teachers and headteachers.”

He called for a to return to an 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, the headteacher at Suffolk’s top performing state school has said the report on the failures of the authority was “not unexpected” – claiming it “lacks initiative” to raise standards of education.

Philip Hurst, the headteacher at Thomas Mills High School in Framlingham, believes Ofsted has “correctly analysed some of the reasons for Suffolk’s relative decline” from its position 20 years ago.

“Fortunately Thomas Mills High School has kept focus on school improvement by concentrating on what matters,” he said.

“As a result, pupils have made exceptional progress.

“The challenge though, to both local authorities and Ofsted, is how to ensure the best people can provide external support without schools losing excellent leaders and teachers.”

Mr Hurst said Suffolk County Council was correct in considering the Hackney Learning Trust model for “accelerated school improvement” but called for a greater focus on retaining and recruiting “the best people”.

“Irrespective of the structures, pupils need the best teachers in front of them,” he said.

“The strategic challenge is how to ensure everyone is pulling in the right direction.”

Despite the bleak outlook portrayed by Ofsted, Mr Hurst remains confident the county can regain its status as a top performing county for education.

“I would urge people not to lose sight of the fact that Suffolk is still an excellent place to live and work and for children to grow up,” he said.

“Suffolk should be ambitious and aim that by 2024 it is one of the highest achieving counties in the country.”

15 comments

  • Nothing to do with those at the coal face then, the teachers?

    Report this comment

    amsterdam81

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

  • Ginge, your views and ignorant and ill-informed and if your teacher friend really does what they claim then they are a disgrace to the profession. I am paid to work 4 days a week in my teaching role. I am in the classroom by 7.45 every morning and although my official teaching day ends by 3pm, I run catch-up sessions, revision classes or clubs every day for another hour. Yes I leave school at 4pm but this is so I can pick up my toddler from nursery and spend a couple of hours with her. Every evening I sit down to work at 7.30 and am never finished before 10pm, even on the day when I haven't actually been into work. In fact, that day is often spent catching up on some planning or marking. I will usually put in several hours over the weekend too. So officially I am paid to work a 0.8 contract but clock up between 45 and 50 hours every single week. The long holidays argument is a tedious one. During the recent half term for those 5 days I had as holiday I worked throughout 2 of them. During the summer holidays I will clock up at least 10 days of work (approximately a third of the holiday). One of the biggest problems in Suffolk is the lack of ambition and drive of students - many of them are apathetic and happy to aim for the bare minimum that will get them into college. Teachers have to face comments such as 'well, I'll be happy to get a C', or 'I just need 4 Ds to get on my course', they lack the drive and motivation to aim high and often their biggest ambition is to get a flat on the waterfront, not to do anything truly amazing with their lives. Reading the many comments generated by education stories in this newspaper it is clear to see where many of them get these ideas from. If you are unhappy with the standard of education your child is receiving then do something about it, complain, make the senior leadership team at the school do something about it, but above all push your children to achieve the very best they can be. I work in a school outside of Ipswich where students are pushed hard, teachers give up many hours after school, during the holidays and at the weekends to help students achieve the best possible results. Generally this is appreciated by parents and students, but when you are faced with comments about lazy teachers you start to think why do we bother. My husband also teaches - he leaves the house at 7.15 and gets in at 6pm and then works all evening - during which time we barely speak to each other as we have too much work to get through. It is easy to judge teachers as lazy, but many of us compromise family life and make ourselves ill doing the job for very little merit. Those of you so quick to judge, do you think you could do it? I imagine not.

    Report this comment

    alittlebitwoolly

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

  • While poor leadership clearly exists in SCC ultimately it is the leadership in schools that fails pupils and shows in the results.

    Report this comment

    amsterdam81

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

  • yes well said,with teachers going on strike what example does this give to children

    Report this comment

    pandy

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

  • @amsterdam81 - whilst there are some quite terrible teachers in Suffolk I'm sure, let's be very clear where the blame lies here. Successive Tory administrations have almost ignored education in the county other than to starve of it of resources. But do you think anyone, past or present, from SCC will take any sort of responsibility for this? I wouldn't hold your breath. And judging from the scathing Ofsted verdict on the 'Raising The Bar' initiative, i expect this to get an awful lot worse before it gets better.

    Report this comment

    paul e.

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

  • Surely the first step is to replace the head teachers and get in people able to inspire or replace the teachers!

    Report this comment

    amsterdam81

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

  • Another ridiculous statement from this pompous peacock. To claim that no blame whatsoever lies at the door of the teaching professionals just confirms that he is the stereotypical blinkered Union leader that adds to the problem rather than helps to tackle it. Shame on him

    Report this comment

    Shimbo

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

  • Oh dear!! @The Ginge and paul e. You have a very poor picture of schools! What you have said here Ginge is very much a generalisation: every County has its share of poor teachers - granted, but there are thousands very different from the picture you paint. Some of us arrive in school as the Caretaker is opening the doors at 7.00am, and leave when he kicks us out. Hundreds of children benefit from the clubs and activities available after school and this increases their enjoyment, engagement with, and experience of school life. We are a state maintained school - not an academy or independent-, and I do not recognise the picture you paint. I think you would find this to be the case in many other schools in the County. As paul e. has said, the problem lies with the leadership, vision and overall accountability of those in charge in the County - not the schools. read the report - this is about the leadership of the County - NOT schools!

    Report this comment

    Provocateur

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

  • @The Ginge - I think what the Ofsted report exposes is that there is actually nothing at the top and that's where I consider the real problem to be. No, or ineffectual, leadership and no strategic plan. So is it any wonder that, in this environment, everyone, teachers and pupils alike, just drift? As for Ondria, don't you think that, as Council Tax payers, we should expect just a little more from our extremely well remunerated Chief Executive's regime than a few nice publicity shots, some life coaching and an ever changing hairdo? And finally, Dr Dan Poulter's outpourings on the subject have been along the lines of 'all the schools in my constituency are rated as good, so that's Ok then'. Well, do you know what, I aspire to something a little bit better for my children than that, and I think I pay for it too!

    Report this comment

    paul e.

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

  • @Paul e. I note your comments, but my view having seen many a private company with similar moral and performance issues, is that you have to start toward the bottom or at least local management. The rank and file have to own the change if it’s going to work. Top down dictatorial change never works. If the senior management of the Education Authority are unwilling or unable to instigate change then yes they should be removed. Secondly the politicians really should act as Executive Directors, they set the target and agenda of the Schools system but they should have no control on delivery. So politicians reflecting the public’s view should set targets, timeframe of achievement and agree a budget with the head of the Education Dept and that person recommendations should be made public on that issue. If he or she says I need £xxM in is only given £bbM then the public would know. Finally yes some teaches should be sacked. Any engaged parent at a School can tell which teaches are poor at their job or just coasting. They should be challenged to improve or got rid of. That is one of the key differences in the private school sector poor teaches are not suffered for long. So it will be the many small ideas implemented by staff and department heads, shared through the organisation if they work that will drive improvement and engagement of teachers. With the teaching profession buying in to the fact that there is something wrong in Rome and teachers are not benighted saints who never get anything wrong. As to your comment regarding Aaaaaandria. She was brought in by Rural Tory’s to do one thing with her connections in Westminster. That was to stop a unitary Ipswich bid, which for the Evening Stars area would have been a God Send, but would have truly exposed the shocking state of Suffolk back in 2006 rather than it taking 8yrs to come out. Finally Teachers need to know that the bottom line is A and A* results not the cop out of “we give them a whole teaching experience” when somebody applies for job here if they have got A’s and a First Degree they are at the top of the pile, unless they are completely socially inept they will get the job over the whole person personality who’s got a D and 22. And at the end of the day Education is there to prepare young people for work and to compete against their French, German, Chinese, Singaporean competitors. You get one chance at education and it is singularly the most guaranteed way to social mobility and self-improvement, I as the parent will teach morals, behaviour, beliefs and expect teaches first and foremost to equip young people with the tools to succeed not a belief system. PS sorry for the long reply.

    Report this comment

    The Ginge

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

  • paul e you have hit the nail on the head. Leadership from SCC is almost non-existent, particularly after the advisory service all but disappeared a few years back. Senior leadership within schools is also a major issue, many teams are poorly led, with a complete lack of focus, and an obsession with what they think Ofsted want to see rather than what's best for the kids. There are far too many people wanting to push themselves forward and trampling anyone and anything in there way. There is a culture of 'look at what I am doing!!' (which on closer inspection is very little) by a noisy minority which unfortunately gets mistaken for outstanding teaching, although becomes apparent on results day that this is not the case. Many of us who just work quietly and with dedication towards the students are overlooked. Until senior leaders start doing a better job things are not going to get better I'm afraid.

    Report this comment

    alittlebitwoolly

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

  • Ok so the percieved wisdom is that 1. It's all the politicians fault 2. It's all the kids fault. Its not the teachers fault at all, they are the beknighted indiduals trying to save the world. I can only go from personel experiance which is 1. Of the 20 people in my oldest childs class at age 11, the top set kids with top sat results. The only one of them who went to university was my son. 2 why because after two years at high school when questioned why he was bored and starting to not perform, the child stated he hadn't learnt anything new apart from english inn the 2yrs at the school. 3. When the school was asked about it, the answer was "well we dont like to push to hard because he is already taught everything up to the start of the GCSE year" "we think other softer skills are more important other than learning for learning sake" . So we managed to beg, borrow and sent the child to a private school. Was I pleased as a proud comprehensive schooled kid that we had to do this no. But that child went to a top university whilst all that childs friends finished school with a mixed bag of gcse's. When you talked to the friends it was a literny of missed chance, boredom, poor teaching and low teacher expectations. One teacher at a parents evening in my earshot stating quite clearly that what did you expect when most of the kids come from council estate. I am sure you and your husband work hard and work long hours. I agree that Suffolk compared to other councils does not spend enough money on education, most of which is because central government have given extra funds to London Schools becaypuse there kids go to those schools. I do not disagree that the senior management has not been great. But only one profesion see the children day in day out and that is teachers. Until teaches the good, theones who are ok and those that are just no good accept this nothing will change in Suffolk Schools. Teachers have a chance to drive this forward but continually ducking and denying responsability as well does not help. All you have to do is look 20 miles down the road at Colchester which with a very similar mix of population and children get significantly differant results.

    Report this comment

    The Ginge

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

  • I am sorry paul e. there is only one group of people who can take the blame on this and that’s teachers. As a parent who has had 2 children go through high school education in Ipswich, it is shocking the lack of desire, will and drive there is in Ipswich. When not 20mins away in Colchester its a different ethos and attitude like night and day. I am no defender of Suffolk CC but even with tight budgets and lack of resources it does not excuse an alleged profession in delivering the best they can with what they have. Too many teachers leave of at 3:15pm and do nothing else, they have over 13 weeks when schools are closed for Holidays yet have to close schools for an extra day at the end of every holiday for training days, moan when they only do a 6hr day that they have to do an extra hours marking in the evening, whilst the rest of us are at work until 6pm, that they have given up on after hour clubs. As teacher friend of mine said if it’s your second year doing similar courses all you have to do is pop in for a week at the end of August to refresh your material and the jobs a good un. If you want to get results in Suffolk here is a few tips. 1. Work private school hours. Assembly at 8:30 lessons until 4:15. 2. Institute after school activities that have to be staffed by teachers who will go in the summer holidays whilst working to be trained as sports coaches. 3. Contract all teachers to a 37hr week with 5 weeks holiday like every other Council employee. 4. Expect results, not C grade but grade them on how many A grades they get. Don't get 15 percent A, 25 percent B and 30 percent C Grades, then don't get the bonus that makes up 15 percent of your salary. Once the real world hits the world of teaching, it would be a surprise how much of an incentive it is. But we only get what we sow, when I left School with decent A Levels if you got a D or an E you went to teacher training college those people are now of the age where they lead schools, so no surprise that low grades are the name of the game. Ultimately do what a lot of parents do, move to Colchester or find a way to pay for a private education, which on average if you look at the fees is about £12,000 a year. As we already spend £6,000 a year if the state gave you that money and you could find the rest (no holidays to the USA every year or re-mortgage) your house etc) then take either of these options, because attacking the politicians is just too easy Its teaches who teach.

    Report this comment

    The Ginge

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

  • Ginge, your views and ignorant and ill-informed and if your teacher friend really does what they claim then they are a disgrace to the profession. I am paid to work 4 days a week in my teaching role. I am in the classroom by 7.45 every morning and although my official teaching day ends by 3pm, I run catch-up sessions, revision classes or clubs every day for another hour. Yes I leave school at 4pm but this is so I can pick up my toddler from nursery and spend a couple of hours with her. Every evening I sit down to work at 7.30 and am never finished before 10pm, even on the day when I haven't actually been into work. In fact, that day is often spent catching up on some planning or marking. I will usually put in several hours over the weekend too. So officially I am paid to work a 0.8 contract but clock up between 45 and 50 hours every single week. The long holidays argument is a tedious one. During the recent half term for those 5 days I had as holiday I worked throughout 2 of them. During the summer holidays I will clock up at least 10 days of work (approximately a third of the holiday). One of the biggest problems in Suffolk is the lack of ambition and drive of students - many of them are apathetic and happy to aim for the bare minimum that will get them into college. Teachers have to face comments such as 'well, I'll be happy to get a C', or 'I just need 4 Ds to get on my course', they lack the drive and motivation to aim high and often their biggest ambition is to get a flat on the waterfront, not to do anything truly amazing with their lives. Reading the many comments generated by education stories in this newspaper it is clear to see where many of them get these ideas from. If you are unhappy with the standard of education your child is receiving then do something about it, complain, make the senior leadership team at the school do something about it, but above all push your children to achieve the very best they can be. I work in a school outside of Ipswich where students are pushed hard, teachers give up many hours after school, during the holidays and at the weekends to help students achieve the best possible results. Generally this is appreciated by parents and students, but when you are faced with comments about lazy teachers you start to think why do we bother. My husband also teaches - he leaves the house at 7.15 and gets in at 6pm and then works all evening - during which time we barely speak to each other as we have too much work to get through. It is easy to judge teachers as lazy, but many of us compromise family life and make ourselves ill doing the job for very little merit. Those of you so quick to judge, do you think you could do it? I imagine not.

    Report this comment

    alittlebitwoolly

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

  • @The Ginge - I don't really disagree with anything you say about the standard and attitude of the teachers in the county's schools. I have, in fact, just moved my daughters into private education because i felt the education they were getting was appalling so this has hit a very raw nerve. And, as you say, I'm now paying twice. But this malaise starts from the leaders down. For too many years SCC has run down education in the county. And, lest we forget, for 3 years Suffolk had one of the highest paid Council Chief Executives in the country because, as we were repeatedly told, she was worth it. Well, I'm not sure what we were paying for 'cause I'd expect a gold plated education system at the end of that, not the utter fiasco we have. So what should we do, sack all the teachers? Or get some fresh blood in at the top and see those who've overseen this steady and dramatic decline take some form of responsibility? Currently, all I see is lots of people blaming each other and doing everything possible to not address the real issues.

    Report this comment

    paul e.

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

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