Resignation call over Suffolk schools’ poor showing in national education league tables

A COUNCILLOR has called for the cabinet member responsible for education in Suffolk to step down as the county continues to perform badly in educational league tables.

A national table showing the percentage of students achieving five or more A* to C grades including English and maths for their GCSEs reveals Suffolk education authority has slumped to 120 out of 152 – falling from 56 five years ago. And between 2009 and last year, Suffolk dropped 31 places in the rankings.

Liberal Democrat county councillor Craig Dearden-Phillips is now calling for Graham Newman, the authority's cabinet member for education and young people, to resign, while others have said he, or somebody, should be held to account.

But Mr Newman, who became portfolio holder for education and young people in 2009, said the primary responsibility for improvement rested with schools, their management teams and governing bodies, saying he was 'passionate' about improving attainment in Suffolk.

Mr Dearden-Phillips said: 'The numbers speak for themselves – Suffolk is losing ground compared to other areas.

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'This is in no small part due to the drawn-out and demoralising process of change from three to two-tier education which, in Bury St Edmunds, will drag on until 2017. As a parent, my confidence in the system is at an all-time low.

'And I know I am not alone. Councillor Graham Newman should resign over these figures.'

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Green county councillor Mark Ereira described the decline as 'falling off a cliff'.

'The Conservative association [at the county council] have overseen poor performance which has led to all the schools wanting to get away from the LEA [local education authority] because of the way it has been run, and somebody needs to answer to that,' he said.

Beginning in 2007, the controversial School Organisation Review (SOR) has led to middle schools closing as Suffolk's three-tier education system (first school, middle and high schools) is replaced by a two-tier system (primary and high schools).

The first town where this took effect was in Lowestoft, where middle schools closed last summer.

Graham White, Suffolk secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said there were a number of reasons for Suffolk's low ranking in the table, but he would 'partly lay the blame' on the way the county council had proceeded with its education policy.

He said: 'It has followed government policy to the letter. I don't think it's considered Suffolk pupils and Suffolk staff as well as it should have done. It's often ignored union advice, and we do have an absolute passion about education.'

He said the projected cost of redundancies as a result of the move to two tier was about �10m, which could have gone into schools and improving outcomes.

Other reasons for Suffolk being ranked 120 included the establishment of free schools and academies and lack of funding, he said.

Mr Newman said the county council embarked upon SOR with the specific intention of raising attainment levels for all pupils.

'We are confident that we will see a marked improvement in Key Stage 2 results in those areas where the first phase of SOR has been fully implemented. There is a well-established link between Key Stage 2 results and what those same pupils go onto achieve at GCSE,' he said.

'The local authority has a responsibility to set the scene for improvement in the county and I am confident that, through programmes such as SOR and Raising the Bar, we will encourage schools to rise to the challenge of increasing attainment.

'This is a time for action, not for point scoring. I am passionate about improving attainment in Suffolk and I know that there is a great appetite for this from headteachers, governors, parents and politicians.'

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