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Action is needed over education

At the Suffolk County Council (SCC) meeting on the December 18, I proposed the following motion as the Labour opposition spokesperson on education and skills:

“In recognition of the 13 secondary schools in Suffolk which are inadequate or require improvement according to the Ofsted website, and the 30 per cent of Suffolk`s secondary school children who are receiving a substandard education I asked for SCC to:

  • Publish an education plan for improvement for each of the schools and academies in Suffolk that have been rated as required improvement or inadequate
  • Take a proactive approach to entering into dialogue with Suffolk`s failing academies and their sponsors with a view to ensuring they take on services provided by the learning improvement service of SCC.
  • Commission a thorough peer review of the whole of education and skills in Suffolk, led by an outside organisation such as the LGA (Local Government Association), in order to identify what SCC needs to do to significantly improve educational results.”

I explained that the report from Northern Education on SCC stated that: “It seems as though the local authority had ‘stood still’ when all around was changing and had struggled to cope with cuts to funding and, in particular, the loss of experienced personnel that followed.” It went on to say the “local authority is slow to react to external forces and change rather than being on the front foot”.

As a county councillor representing a Lowestoft division, I asked why three out of four high schools in the town were in special measures and when SCC was going to become more proactive in their approach to school improvement.

Currently SCC has tried to wash its hands of its responsibilities - saying it has no jurisdiction over academies and so all we can do is cut the learning improvement service because we have fewer schools to support.

The Labour group wants the council to take the lead and ask all schools not: “What is your status?”, but: “How can we help?”

Our children and young people in Lowestoft cannot put their lives on hold until the Conservative administration gets it right unless there is radical improvement right now, hundreds of Lowestoft youngsters will have their lives blighted.

Sadly the motion was lost 26 votes to 39. Our children and young people deserve better.

Sonia Barker is Labour Opposition Spokesperson for Education at Suffolk County Council

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