We are aware of chal­lenges ahead

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Townhall View - John Holdich Peter­bor­ough City Coun­cil leader gives his view on the coun­cil and news and is­sues af­fect­ing you...

It’s fair to say I’ve faced con­sid­er­able crit­i­cism in the past cou­ple of weeks about the per­for­mance of pri­mary schools in this year’s SATS tests.

Peo­ple who know me un­der­stand how pas­sion­ately I care about pro­vid­ing chil­dren and young peo­ple with the best ed­u­ca­tion pos­si­ble, which is why the re­sults came as a real blow.

I’ve lis­tened to all the com­ments that have been made and what is clear is that peo­ple don’t fully un­der­stand the role that lo­cal au­thor­i­ties now have in pro­vid­ing ed­u­ca­tion. Many of our schools run in­de­pen­dently as academies and the govern­ment is plac­ing more and more power in the hands of in­di­vid­ual schools and tak­ing power away from coun­cils.

Our pri­mary role is to sup­port and chal­lenge our schools through our im­prove­ment team. We do not teach pupils, nor do we gov­ern schools. These are the facts.

It goes with­out say­ing that the re­sults are un­ac­cept­able and that im­prove­ments in at­tain­ment have to be made.

We have an im­por­tant part to play and I, along with the di­rec­tor and as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of ed­u­ca­tion, will be ask­ing low per­form­ing schools to pro­duce de­tailed im­prove­ment plans on which we will hold them to ac­count. We will also be meet­ing school lead­ers to in­ves­ti­gate the rea­sons for the re­sults.

Head­teach­ers are telling us that the new ex­ams are a fac­tor with pupils be­ing tested on a more chal­leng­ing cur­ricu­lum. There is ev­i­dence to sup­port this with some of our schools telling us that pupils achieved re­sults broadly in line with last year, if not bet­ter, when they took last year’s test pa­pers as a mock exam.

Re­gard­less, the new cur­ricu­lum is here to stay and so our school im­prove­ment team will con­tinue to work closely with schools, mon­i­tor their per­for­mance and pro­vide chal­lenge and sup­port for head­teach­ers. I have every faith in this team, which was one of only two in the coun­try to get the seal of ap­proval from Of­sted.

The cru­cial as­pect for me is un­der­stand­ing why over 90 per cent of our pri­mary schools have been rated by Of­sted as good or out­stand­ing, yet our pro­vi­sional at­tain­ment scores do not seem to re­flect this.

We are all well aware of chal­lenges that we face - chal­lenges that are not unique to Peter­bor­ough, but we are cer­tainly at the sharp end of.

We have much higher than av­er­age num­bers of chil­dren who move schools, and move to the city, dur­ing the acade- mic year. Each time a child moves school it means the loss of about one term’s worth of aca­demic progress which un­doubt­edly has a neg­a­tive im­pact upon out­comes in Peter­bor­ough schools.

We also have large num­bers of pupils who speak a lan­guage other than English at home - ev­i­dence shows that these pupils achieve lower than chil­dren who speak English, how­ever this gap is clos­ing.

We have been faced with these is­sues for some years and have been work­ing hard to ad­dress them. In 2014 we launched a spe­cial acad­emy to sup­port the teach­ers of chil­dren who don’t speak English as their first lan­guage to get the best out of all their pupils.

We are see­ing im­prove­ments - this year more chil­dren than the na­tional av­er­age achieved the top grades at A- level and our GCSE re­sults im­proved in every mea­sure, buck­ing the na­tional down­ward trend.

I give you my word - we will do ev­ery­thing in our power to of­fer chil­dren the very best ed­u­ca­tion that we can. This is my pri­or­ity and why I ap­pointed a cab­i­net ad­vi­sor in May to sup­port me in this role. In par­tic­u­lar we will chal­lenge those schools which are not per­form­ing well.

A fo­cus of this has to be on at­tain­ment lev­els, but cru­cially it is about giv­ing every child the chance to reach their full po­ten­tial, what­ever that po­ten­tial may be. This is why I await the progress data, so that we can fully un­der­stand the progress that chil­dren are mak­ing be­tween start­ing and leav­ing pri­mary school. Given our lo­cal chal­lenges, this in­for­ma­tion is vi­tal to be able to fully as­sess the per­for­mance of our schools.

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