Money is needed to boost school results


Suffolk’s education results have been disappointing for years – but at last something positive seems to be happening with the launch of the Raising the Bar report with its radical proposals.

However while there are positive proposals – like setting up a new independent body to offer help and support to schools, and linking up with Hackney which has transformed its schools over the last few years – it has not addressed the elephant in the room.

And that is funding. The reason that Hackney schools, and those of many other inner-London boroughs, have improved dramatically over the last few years is that millions of pounds has been thrown at them.

There have been extra teachers, teaching assistants, and advisors introduced which has helped to turn them around. This financial bounty is not on offer in Suffolk.

In Suffolk senior politicians and officers insist that the amount available for schools is broadly in line with what is on offer in similar counties.

That is true – but the money it takes to keep a successful education authority “ticking over” is less than that needed to turn around one which has problems.

So how did Suffolk get into this situation? It is difficult to resist the conclusion that this is, in part, as result of the determination to pursue the schools reorganisation review – the abolition of middle schools in other parts of the county.

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This was absolutely the right thing to do – middle schools were a mistake when they were created in the early 70s.

By the late 70s that was recognised and schools elsewhere in the county, especially the Ipswich area, were kept in the two-tier system.

But while work on changing the system got under way in Suffolk over recent years, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the county council took its eye off the ball so far as all other school issues were concerned.

Changing to a two-tier system may be vital to improving education generally – but there are other factors involved in a good education, and these were ignored for too long.

Hopefully the new report will help to turn things around – but it does need to be accompanied by political will and a reasonable amount of new money.

Now, of course, where that money comes from is a completely different question!