Fine words need actions to match

THIS month’s conference on improving education standards in Suffolk made all the right noises about creating a generation of young people able to meet the challenges offered by the county in the 21st century.

But I do hope that the inspiration that many attendees will have felt at the end of the event will not melt away too soon when faced with the practicalities of everyday life.

Suffolk’s school system needs to be subject to a long, hard look. The decision taken in the early 1970s over much of the county to go for a three-tier school system was a disaster – and it took politicians far too long to recognise and finally address the problem.

The county saw sense and got rid of middle schools in the Woodbridge area in the 1980s. Why did it take them 25 years to have the courage to bite the bullet and make the change in the rest of the county?

Thank heavens Ipswich was never subject to this failed educational experiment!

But what worries me is that in this world of academies, free schools, and every other type of state funding being available, the ability of any organisation to take a county-wide view of education is almost non-existent.

Holywells High School is no more. It’s now the Ipswich Academy which doesn’t have to pay any attention to the local education authority.

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And the county isn’t even able to do what it wants with the old Holywells building in case alternative groups want to set up a free school there!

Which brings me back to last week’s conference. My old schoolteacher used to say: “Fine words butter no parsnips.”

My concern is that despite many fine words and a genuine desire to improve the prospects of the county’s youngsters, the means by which this can be achieved is rapidly being eroded by a government more concerned about ideology and the desire to offer a false choice than the prospects of our youngsters.

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