Letter to the EADT:
I was sadly not surprised by the results of the Ofsted inspection report released on March 4 which states that: “The Local Authority (Suffolk County Council) arrangements for supporting school improvement are ineffective.” The report goes on to explain: “This inspection was carried out because the achievement of pupils in primary and secondary schools has been below national averages. In addition, the proportion of pupils attending schools which are good or better is too low.” The report says there are four main areas of concern to Ofsted around the School Improvement Servicewhich are:
- There is a lack of an adequate plan
- Lack of communication with schools
- Lack of ability to intervene in failing schools
- Inability to evaluate the quality of their own work
The Ofsted report was published just weeks after Suffolk County Council cut the funding for the School Improvement Service. On February 13, the Conservatives voted against a Labour Group amendment to the budget that would have stopped cuts to the Learning Improvement Service of £500,000. At the full council budget meeting, as Labour opposition spokesman for education skills and young people, I asked councillor Lisa Chambers, deputy leader (portfolio holder for education skills and young people), “where is the fully funded vision of good practice to be undertaken without delay across all schools in Suffolk?” and “Why are we washing our hands of providing a clear leadership role in education in Suffolk?” Councillor Chambers’ reply, which has been repeated over and over again by the Conservative administration, is that their “Raising the Bar” programme will deal with the problem of underperforming schools.
However, without adequate staff and resources, Suffolk County Council will not have the capacity to help Suffolk schools improve. A well resourced School Improvement Service could become a facilitator for excellence across Suffolk by linking outstanding teachers and outstanding headteachers with schools across Suffolk that require support to raise attainment.
As vice chairman of Suffolk County Council’s education and children’s services committee, I want to work with the Conservatives to help improve Suffolk’s schools, but that won’t happen if they do not make the resources available. This is the most important issue facing Suffolk today. Children only get one chance at their education, we must all ensure it is the best that Suffolk can provide.
COUNCILLOR SONIA BARKER
Labour spokesman for education skills & young people, Suffolk County Council