Suffolk’s new education chief sets out her vision for county’s schools

Sue Cook, the new director of children and young people's services for Suffolk County Council

Sue Cook, the new director of children and young people's services for Suffolk County Council - Credit: Archant

Suffolk's new education chief has set out ambitious plans to move the county to the top 25pc of national school league tables.

Sue Cook begins her first day as Suffolk County Council's director of children and young people's services today.

Speaking before taking up her job at Endeavour House in Ipswich, she said strong leadership from headteachers was 'essential' to driving forward success, as was involvement from parents.

Her appointment comes in the wake of disappointing Key Stage Two (SATs) and Key Stage Four (GCSE) results which place Suffolk close to the bottom of both national school league tables.

Ms Cook said: 'Suffolk is unique to Suffolk. There are things that work generically to improve education attainment but my first priority has to be to listen, to learn and to understand.

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'If we jump too quickly to solutions, we will waste a lot of time but actually not make a difference.

'I want to be visiting, getting out and seeing people, meeting headteachers, meeting families.'

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Ms Cook said she would be carrying out an overview of the current short-term actions that are in place to improve performance and would also be looking to influence the Raising the Bar work.

She said: 'Suffolk children deserve the very best teachers. We want high-quality leadership from headteachers and governing bodies, and high ambitions.

'The role of headteachers is essential. The quality of the headteacher provides significant influence on the outcomes of the children in the school.

'They need to be tenacious about children's progress so not one single child slips behind and then must be creative about solutions to ensure it doesn't happen.'

A qualified social worker, Ms Cook comes to Suffolk having previously worked as interim corporate director of children and learning at Southend Borough Council, which is ranked the UK's 15th-best education authority at Key Stage Four.

It is hoped she will be able to repeat the success she experienced during her time when she headed up the department responsible for achieving the area's best ever exam results for two consecutive years.

Ms Cook said: 'It will take time, but we've got to be in the top quartile of the league tables in five years' time.'

Graham Newman, Suffolk County Council's cabinet member for education and young people, said: 'Sue has a wealth of experience in helping schools to achieve better results and protecting the most vulnerable young people in society. Her skills will be a valuable asset to Suffolk.

'The county council has made it absolutely clear that improving educational attainment at all ages is our number one priority and I'm confident that Sue will be able to play a significant role in that.

'I look forward to working with Sue as we continue to move forward the department and the services it provides.'

Suffolk is currently three-quarters of the way through a school organisation review (SOR) changing from a three-tier system – primary school, middle school and secondary school – to a two-tier system of just primary and secondary.

Ms Cook did not say whether she would want to speed up the process, but she did say it 'needed completing'.

'The SOR needs finishing off. There is clear evidence nationally that the three-tier systems achieve less. It's not the sole issue but it does need completing.'

Ms Cook said the council and the schools had the potential and ambition to 'make a real difference'.

She said: 'I can't do any of this on my own. Partnership working is fundamental to making changes, and the quality of the staff, leaders and managers who work for you and with you is absolutely essential.'

Ms Cook said the council was recruiting a new head of learning and improving service but believed in a joined-up 'holistic' approach to education and children's services.

'I am delighted to be here and am looking forward to working here and you will see me out and about.

'It's a privilege to join Suffolk and to make a contribution.

'Suffolk is on the up. There is that ambition and tenacity of not giving up. The potential is in everyone. It's in the leadership, it's in the council.

'We are going to make a real difference.'

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