Exclusive by Lauren Everitt
Friday, March 15, 2013
EDUCATION secretary Michael Gove last night predicted a bright future for Suffolk’s schools despite the county’s dreadful performance in recent league tables.
Suffolk was placed 142nd out of 151 authorities for GCSE attainment levels earlier this year but Mr Gove claimed improvements have already been made.
Mr Gove, who was at Seckford Hall hotel, in Woodbridge, speaking to headteachers said: “Suffolk is improving rapidly and that’s partly because there have been good headteachers who have blazed a trail for others to follow.
“The headteachers have a role to set a higher level of aspiration than we have had in the past but they need to have the freedom to make the changes required to do a better job and that’s what academy status is about.
“Graham Newman and the county council have been increasingly supportive of schools that have wanted to go down that route.
“Suffolk has some of the best schools in the country so I’m hugely encouraged that if schools can continue to make improvements in tough times things will only get better and the future is looking bright.”
He added that moving Suffolk from a three-tier to a two-tier education system was “always going to cause upheaval” and the success of the system depends on “individual authorities”.
But Graham White, from the National Union of Teachers, attacked Mr Gove’s policy of approving free schools and academies.
He said: “His agenda is to replace schools with free schools and academies which is why he has given the ‘yes’ to all free schools so far but they haven’t raised standards.
“The schools failing under Ofsted criteria haven’t improved significantly since they were taken over by sponsored academies.
“Most of the failing schools are in areas of social deprivation and that’s the single biggest factor in determining a pupil’s and a school’s outcome.”
Mr White believes Mr Gove has a “warped view of education and is stuck in the 1950s”. “My major concern is not what he has said but what he hasn’t said and what he hasn’t done to improve education,” he added.
“He does not know much about education which is very sad considering he is the education secretary.”
The plight of education in Suffolk has resulted in the launch of the Raising the Bar initiative in an attempt to boost results.
In response to disapointing result and with the aim of sharing best practice and supporting each other a group of primary school heads formed the Suffolk Primary Headteachers’ Association (SPHA) last year.
Richard Dedicoat, Head at Whitton Primary School and vice chairman of SPHA, said after the meeting: “While Mr Gove recognised that we are the best generation of young teachers and heads and that rates of improvement are breathtaking, this hasn’t stopped him from pushing reforms in almost every aspect of what we do.
“Heads in Suffolk are confident that performance will improve through the commitment and dedication of our school leaders and their teams. We ask that Mr Gove stand by his commitment to listen and be influenced by our views on his reforms.”