Suffolk: Reprieve for education system as new tables indicate slight progress at GCSE level
15:15 23 January 2014
Suffolk’s struggling education system received a small reprieve yesterday following the publication of national league tables.
The county was placed 137th out of 151 local authorities across the country for GCSE results in 2013. The position signalled a climb back from last year’s 21 place drop to 142nd.
Last night Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for education, skills and young people said schools in the county were making progress and were closing the gap on the national average.
The percentage of pupils in Suffolk achieving five or more GCSEs at A*-C grade now stands at 54.6%, meaning the county is 6.4% off the national average of 61%.
Last year the county was 8.5% off a national average of 59%.
Suffolk’s top performing state schools
Thomas Mills High School
5 A* to C grades - 83%
Average points score - 563.9
Debenham High School
5 A* to C grades - 79%
Average points score 426.7
Bury St Edmunds County Upper School
5 A* to C grades - 77%
Average points score 451.1
Councillor Lisa Chambers said: “This is a reflection of the hard work and dedication of young people and all those individuals in the Suffolk education system who have been relentless in pursuit of improved standards in the county.
“I do however recognise that there is still work to be done to get Suffolk further up the league tables and performing above the national average. Crucially, the pace of improvement needs to increase. It’s what our young people deserve from their education and it’s what we are all determined to achieve.
“We always knew this wasn’t going to be a quick overnight fix. The Raising the Bar programme is a long term investment from partners across the county to see educational attainment improve. I am pleased that we have made a positive start on our journey towards excellence.”
The results came a month after the release of league tables which placed Suffolk joint fourth-worst in the country for primary school education.
30% of primary school pupils failed to reach the required standard in maths and English exams in a system in which “a generation of young children is being failed”, according to Ipswich MP Ben Gummer.
Last year county council education chiefs said Suffolk’s position in GCSE league tables had been adversely affected by harsher national grading of English Literature and English Language GCSEs.
31 out of 37 schools in Suffolk used the AQA examination board, which was widely believed to have adjusted its grade boundaries the most drastically.
The headteacher of King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds and education blogger, Geoff Barton, said this year’s results were “encouraging”, but weren’t reflective of the Raising the Bar initiative.
“It’s worth remembering that the cohorts of students are all students who predate the Raising the Bar initiative,” he said. “So it’s far too early to make any judgement about that.”
“Education isn’t like producing cans of baked beans, there are very few quick fixes, it’s all about the quality of teaching… It’s what happens in the classrooms, the other stuff can be a distraction so we just need to keep everybody’s minds on what’s going on in schools.”
Mr Barton added that it was reassuring to know the progress couldn’t be attributed to grade inflation. “The grades have gone up even though people are looking much more carefully at grade values,” he said.