We are aware of challenges ahead
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.