Concern over Suffolk's exam results

EDUCATION chiefs have written to every headteacher in Suffolk as concerns grow about exam performance in the county, it has emerged.GCSE results in Suffolk are below the national average and are among the worst 25pc of similar counties.

EDUCATION chiefs have written to every headteacher in Suffolk as concerns grow about exam performance in the county, it has emerged.

GCSE results in Suffolk are below the national average and are among the worst 25pc of similar counties.

And the performance of 11-year-olds at Key Stage Two also show the county falling behind similar authorities - and getting worse.

Now top education officers at the county council are trying to address the problems and get Suffolk back to the position it held a decade ago when it was seen as one of the best local education authorities in the country.

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Headteachers of both primary and secondary schools were sent letters from the county's director of children's services at the start of the academic year.

This expressed concern about the Key Stage Two and GCSE results.

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Headteachers were also called to meetings with senior officers to discuss how they could deal with issues and improve results in their schools.

Graham Newman, cabinet member for children and young people, said it was vital that schools got to grips with problems surrounding exam results.

He said: 'This is the most important issue facing schools in Suffolk, right across the county. And it is something that has to be addressed now.'

The county has set up a 'Schools Improvement Service' to help schools improve the chances of their pupils - and to offer advice to teachers and other staff.

There is also new advice on monitoring pupils' progress being prepared for both primary and senior schools.

Mr Newman said the work had to focus on improving results - and he was confident that the steps being taken to boost support now would pay dividends.

He said: 'By offering more support to schools, and giving schools more chance to share best practice I am sure results will improve.'

Results had slipped because of difficulties in recruiting teachers and in some respects the county had been a victim of its success.

Mr Newman said: 'People have seen no shortage of well-paid jobs that you don't need good qualifications for - but those days are over.

'As technology replaces many of those jobs, it becomes more important to get good exam results and that is a message that has to go through schools.'

Last night, one Suffolk headteacher said that 'getting the basics right' was the key to improved results for school students.

Colin Hirst, head of Thomas Mills High School in Framlingham which achieved its best-ever results last summer, said: 'I cannot comment on how other schools work, but for us the important thing is to give the students confidence in themselves and their abilities - and to ensure the school is focused on their academic needs.

'Last year we took a long hard look at what we are doing and what is important at the school and sharpened our focus - and the results speak for themselves.'

His school has recently begun a relationship with another school offering support and advice.

'The important thing for us is to get the basic things right at the school,' he said.

Rob Cawley, headteacher of Deben High in Felixstowe, has seen results improve despite problems elsewhere in the county.

The school has worked to ensure it spots any students who are not achieving their potential and developed a curriculum around the needs of individual students.

Mr Cawley said: 'We set challenging targets and through our school values we make sure we send out the signal we believe the students can achieve them.'

Its most recent partnership working was the Felixstowe Learning Trust working with many local, regional and national partners to set a strategic direction for education in the town.

He added: 'We are also members of the NICE consortium working with South Suffolk schools on diploma entitlements and provision and with Orwell as part of the Felixstowe Sixth Form.'

KEY STAGE TWO RESULTS 2009: Students achieving level four target. (2006 results)

English Maths Science

Suffolk 76% (79%) 73% (74%) 85% (86%)

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