‘Excuses’ for poor Peterborough school results

Richard O'Neill

Richard O'Neill

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A literacy champion with extensive experience in primary schools has hit out at the “excuses” behind Peterborough’s terrible SATS results.

Storyteller Richard O’Neill said the city council should not use high levels of immigration as a reason for it having the second worst results from pupils leaving primary school.

Mr O’Neill, a recipient of a ‘Literacy Hero’ award by the National Literacy Trust, gave short shrift to council leader and education portfolio holder Cllr John Holdich’s claim that Peterborough “faces a unique set of challenges” from high numbers of children moving into the city or not speaking English as their first language.

“I think they are excuses,” said Mr O’Neill, who grew up in a Romany traveller family and is now based in Lancashire.

“People say traveller children and immigrant children bring figures down. I’ve worked on quite a few projects in the area and that’s not been my experience.

“Every child I have worked with, if they have a tiny level of English, with the right support and inspiration to learn they are speaking as well as I can in three to four months.”

Cllr Holdich said there is good evidence that the city has a unique set of challenges and that Ofsted and the Department for Education have acknowledged this.