£150,000 on externAl help for city schools
City council hopes organisation can improve results
A literacy champion with extensive experienceinprimary schools has hit out at the “excuses” behindPeterborough’s terrible SATS results.
Storyteller RichardO’Neill said the city council should notusehighlevelsofimmigration as a reason for it having the secondworstresults from pupilsleavingprimaryschool.
Mr O’Neill, a recipient of a ‘Literacy Hero’ award by the National Literacy Trust, gave short shrift to council leader and education portfolio holder Cllr John Holdich’s claim that Peterborough “faces a unique set of challenges” from high numbers of children moving into the city or not speaking English as their first language.
“I think they are excuses,” said Mr O’Neill, who grew up in a Romany traveller family and is now based in Lancashire.
“People say traveller chil- dren and immigrant children bring figures down. I’ve workedonquiteafewprojects in the area andthat’s not been my experience.
“Every child I have worked with, if they have a tiny level of English, with the right support and inspiration to learn they are speaking as well as I can in three to four months.”
Cllr Holdich said there is good evidence that the city has a unique set of challenges and that Ofsted and the Department for Education have acknowledged this. Education specialists are being paid £150,000 by Peterborough City Council to help improve primary school results.
The council is investing in not- for- profit organisation Success for All, which is based in Cathedral Square, to helpoutatfiveunderperforming schools.
It is the latest move by council leader and education portfolio holder Councillor John Holdich to push Peterborough up the school rankings after it came second last in the recent SATS results.
Cllr Holdich, who has already commissioned a review into the city’s education, wrote in his Peterborough Telegraph column: “Success for All works with more than 60,000 children in more than 130 schools across the UK which face similar challenges to schools in Peterborough.
“Theydothisbytransforming the waychildrenlearn, encouragingpupilstoworkmore collaboratively and changing thewayteachersinteractwith pupils in the classroom.
“The results they report are encouraging with attainmentlevels for disadvantaged pupils 10 per cent above the national average.”
Success for All chief executive Matt Ditchfield said: “I’m very excited to be workingwiththecitycouncilonimproving outcomes for young people and I look forward to working particularly with the first pilot group of schools to support their leaders, staff and children.”
Thefirstschoolstobeused in the project will be chosen shortly and will begin receiving help after the February half-term.
The council leader added: “We have a hypothesis that in Peterborough we face a unique set of challenges, a perfect storm you might say, which sets us apart from anywhere else in the country.”
Cllr Holdich has also announced that the council and Vivacity - which runs major leisure and culture facilities in the city - are jointly bidding for external fundingtolaunch a book bus which would visit Peterborough schools and support children andfamilies with reading.
The council leader added: “It’s a firm belief of mine that actions speak louder than words and I hope you can see that we are taking action to raise attainment levels.”
MattDitchfield with Cllr June Stokes and John Holdich.