Friday, 13 December 2013

Suffolk Tories fail again to raise education standards in the County

Yesterday saw the publication of at least the third report on education this week and again it did not make good reading for Tory run Suffolk County Council.

The first report this week was by the National Audit Office, concerning the setting up of Free Schools in the UK and in the main the report was mainly negative and this afternoon we have just been informed that the DfE have ordered a Free school to close in April after failing to reach the required standard of teaching.

Though I believe the setting up of ‘Free Schools’ (well not actually free as the Tax payer has had to heavily subsidise their creation) has not helped raise education standards in Suffolk it is the two later reports this week that have shown what a mess Tory run Suffolk is making of education in this county.

What was no surprise to me was the silence of leading Suffolk and Ipswich Tories once the two reports were published, I mentioned this via twiiter and Mr Gummer did then send me a link to show he had commented on the report. The link led to a Star website report that indicated Mr Gummer was critical of teaching but no mention of the failure by Tory run Suffolk to help improve education in the county.
The Ipswich Star and the EADT today both featured the report on Primary School education which highlighted the fact that Suffolk again has been named as one of the worst performing authorities in England. The Star did not include in their report the comments from Mr Gummer but the EADT did. Again they repeated Mr Gummers comment about the need for better teachers but it did also include his criticism of Tory run Suffolk – ‘We need a sense of urgency which the County Council has not yet shown’.

I would like to thank Mr Gummer for once at least putting some of the blame at the feet of the Tory run County but it seems his words have fell on deaf ears, the county according to their leader, Mr Bee and lead on education, Lisa Chambers are just going to continue with their ‘Raising the Bar’ project but Mr Bee warns us that it is going to take time. All good news for parents of pupils who are currently in Primary education in Suffolk then?

So what is the real plan for Education in Suffolk? Even Mr Gummer seems slightly critical of their progress though it is still silence from the other Tory MP’s, Tory Cabinet members and Ipswich Tory Cllrs. I have written to Mr Gummer about what I believed to be the bullying approach the DfE have taken in forcing schools to become academies. One local Tory, wondered why I was criticising academies when they produce better results, not sure that is actually proven in Primary Schools yet but I do agree with him, academies are probably the best way forward but only because there is just a choice between becoming an academy or being left under the control of a Tory council who has no interest in education and just wishes to get rid of their responsibility as soon as possible.

Mr Gummer has passed on my concerns to Lord Nash and I am still awaiting his views on the process that seems to have become normal in that schools are not only being forced down the academy path but also sworn to secrecy whilst doing so.

One of our Labour County Councillor colleagues has written to the County Council after finding out via a resident that one of the Primary Schools in her Division is being forced into becoming an academy, she wanted to know why she had not been informed.

The reply from the County consisted of a number of interesting points, but one in particular I felt gave away more than it should of: The comment was “There is also an expectation that over time all school will become academies. This process is beyond the control of the LA” Now I for one can’t remember that being in either the Tory manifesto at the last General Election or in the Tory County Manifesto last year, can you?

So as many of us thought, this is not about parental choice but it is being forced on us for ideological reasons.
One Tory County Cabinet member did use his blog this week but not to talk about education but how he was proud that they had not raised council tax and how he wished he could lower it – true Council tax has not risen over the last few years but at the same time funding to the School Improvement Team has been slashed and we now hear from the County that their plan is just to get rid of education completely from their remit.

‘Raising the Bar’ has just become ‘let’s just stand at the bar and wait for all schools to leave the authority’
Not for the first time, Tories in Suffolk have let down our children.


Unknown said...

You write, "One local Tory, wondered why I was criticising academies when they produce better results". This is not proven and I would like to draw your attention to this article which makes that point

Ben Redsell said...

"Andrew Adonis and I are accelerating our academies programme - a progressive Labour policy that in community after community is breaking the link between poverty and attainment."

Ed Balls as Secretary of State for Children, Schools & Families

"Labour created academies to improve state education radically. We are proud of their success and we stand resolutely behind the sponsors, parents and local communities who have created and sustained these independent state schools founded to provide a first-class education to children of all backgrounds."

Andrew Adonis, Labour Schools Minister who invented the Academy programme.

"Congrats to academy heads, governors and staff on praise from Sir Michael Wilshaw today: says academies have raised standards dramatically"

Also Andrew Adonis, Labour Schools Minister who invented the Academy programme.

One academic can make all the criticism of the data he likes, but until his work is peer reviewed, you can't simply state it as fact. You wouldn't have allowed such poor examination of data to be introduced as homework.

Alasdair Ross said...

They were talking about secondary schools, but Labour had in their manifesto that they wanted to see more secondary schools become academies but no where in the Tory County Council manifesto does it mention the aim to see eventually no schools under the authority of the county council
Funny when Labour were in power in Westminster Tory run Suffolk was one of the few counties in the country with not one academy!
But today was a landmark date as even Ben Gummer criticised Tory run Suffolk

Anonymous said...

As someone who has worked with schools over recent years, this appears to be a simplistic and distant view of the entire picture.

There has been no bullying approach for schools to become academies. If this is the case, then surely the low percentage of academies in Suffolk is evidence against this? Schools become academies for many reasons, a significant reason being a greater level of autonomy, albeit at a sacrifice of Local Authority support/intervention.

As you stated, becoming an academy is optional. However, a few sentences later you mention that a resident stated that their school was "forced into becoming an academy". This is contradictory within the article, but also very likely an incorrect statement.

This brings us onto the next point with regards to the quote "...left under the control of a Tory council who has no interest in education and just wishes to get rid of their responsibility as soon as possible". The Local Authority frequently intervenes and offers tailored support to individual schools when needed. This is more than what the DfE offers so this immediately questions the validity of this statement (or perhaps, opinion).

It’s becoming a recurring trend that Labour statements spout outrage at the current Conservative approaches, rather than offer any constructive solutions. This can simply be seen by a quick search on the article; the word ‘Tory/Tories’ is used almost twenty times as much as ‘Labour’. I can’t say that I’m a supporter of Conservative but they certainly are the lesser of two evils.

Alasdair Ross said...

I am a governor at a school which has been bullied into becoming an academy and now an officer at Suffolk County Council has indicated that the aim is for all schools in Suffolk to become academies.
It is in Primary schools where we are seeing both schools being forced down the academy route but also sworn to secrecy during the process
I think over the next 6 months you will see a number of Ipswich Primary schools jump before they are pushed down the academy route.
I agree that most secondary schools that have become academies decided off their own backs but that is not what is happening at Primary school level, also as Primary schools are much smaller the savings to be made by becoming an academy are much less

Anonymous said...

Primary schools can see a greater financial benefit from collaborations and federations rather than proceeding down the academy route.

I understand that schools which are struggling (whether this is financially or through Ofsted reports) feel that they may only have the academy route as an option, but I am unsure of how they are being forced. I imagine we will have to wait and see whether there is an influx of Ipswich primary school conversions in the next few months.

Alasdair Ross said...

Education department sent the school I am involved with an academy broker, said we did not need to become an academy, but months later with no further data or info he changed his mind and has said WE MUST become an academy - parents and staff not to be consulted. Still waiting an answer from Tory Lord Nash to find out if this is Gove policy