Th­ese re­sults are an em­bar­rass­ment

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Westminste Life -

Last week’s shock­ingly poor Key Stage 2 SATs re­sults must be a wake-up call for all of us in the city: The city coun­cil, city coun­cil­lors, MPs, academies, teach­ers, par­ents, gov­er­nors, we all need to ac­knowl­edge the grav­ity of the sit­u­a­tion: Bot­tom of the pile across the whole of Eng­land. The re­sults for boys was ap­palling with just 35% reach­ing na­tional stan­dards. No other lo­cal au­thor­ity slipped be­low 42%. Frankly, it’s an em­bar­rass­ment.

We can’t let this sit­u­a­tion con­tinue, not least as it will un­der­mine the eco­nomic vi­a­bil­ity as an at­trac­tive place to live work and play. Ur­gent ac­tion is re­quired right now.

What’s re­ally de­press­ing too is the litany of ex­cuses from the “usual sus­pects”, fo- cus­ing on pro­ce­dures, struc­tures, cur­ric­ula etc., rather than the re­sults them­selves and not how we try to get out of the mess we’re in - the Chair of the pri­mary school heads but the city coun­cil need to fo­cus on so­lu­tions and not only the prob­lems. Ex­cuses that we’ve heard year af­ter year for the last ten years to ex­plain/ex­cuse poor per­for­mance. We are bot­tom of na­tional league ta­bles now – how do we nuance that?

I think the ma­jor­ity of teach­ers in Peter­bor­ough do a fan­tas­tic and heroic job un­der very dif­fi­cult con­di­tions but they need more help and they need it soon.

Of course, I know we have spe­cial cir­cum­stances to deal with: Mas­sive lev­els of in­ward mi­gra­tion and high num­bers of non-English speak­ers, un­prece­dented “churn” of pupils into and out of schools through­out the year, teacher re­cruit­ment is­sues, poor parental sup­port in some schools and low his­toric at­tain­ment lev­els but none of th­ese chal­lenges are new – af­ter all, I’ve been bang­ing on about them to Min­is­ters for many years. The lack of proper in­fra­struc­ture plan­ning and mass mi­gra­tion which has given rise to a school places cri­sis was surely a big rea­son for the sig­nif­i­cant Leave vote in Peter­bor­ough at the re­cent Euro­pean Union ref­er­en­dum.

First things first, the Leader of the City Coun­cil must step aside as Cabi­net Mem­ber for Schools and ap­point some­one else to this im­por­tant role – be­ing a port­fo­lio holder and Leader is too big a job for one per­son. Se­condly, the city coun­cil needs to ap­point a ded­i­cated Schools Di­rec­tor – Chil­dren’s Ser­vices, in­clud­ing safe­guard­ing and adop­tion and fos­ter­ing, is also too large a re­spon­si­bil­ity for one in­di­vid­ual. We need a schools sum­mit in Peter­bor­ough to work to­wards de­vel­op­ing a “Lon­don Chal­lenge”-style strat­egy (which has driven up at­tain­ment stan­dards in the cap­i­tal) and we need to specif­i­cally fo­cus on fail­ing academies and teacher re­cruit­ment and seek govern­ment in­ter­ven­tion di­rectly if nec­es­sary.

We all have a role to play. The time for ex­cuses has come to an end. The city coun­cil must show lead­er­ship and vi­sion. I stand ready to help in any way I can.

Let’s hope we never again suf­fer the ig­nominy of be­ing bot­tom of the class. Peter­bor­ough is bet­ter than that.

Let’s hope wen­ever again suf­fer the ig­nominy of be­ing bot­tom of the class. Peter­bor­ough is bet­ter than that.

Peter­bor­ough’s MP writes his reg­u­lar col­umn for the Peter­bor­ough Tele­graph

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