Reaction as Peterborough languishes near foot of primary school league tables

Councillor John Holdich.

Councillor John Holdich.

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Education bosses are to challenge figures that are critical of Peterborough primary schools, writes Paul Grinnell:

The politician responsible for overseeing the education of thousands of children in Peterborough says youngsters are not being let down despite a poor showing in a new league table.

Councillor John Holdich was speaking after figures showed that 22 per cent of primary schools in Peterborough have failed this year to reach targets for pupils’ attainment in the three Rs.

The statistics from the Department for Education (DfE) show that 12 out of the city’s 54 primary schools missed the benchmark for the Key Stage 2 Sats tests in reading, writing and maths.

The DfE requires that schools ensure at least 65 per cent of their 11-year-olds reach Level 4 in reading, writing and mathematics and also meet national averages in pupil progress.

The results meant that Peterborough slipped one place to 148th out of 152 local authority areas for the performance of youngsters at Key Stage 2.

See Key Stage 2 table.

But Cllr Holdich, the council’s cabinet member for education, said the data is flawed and ignores progress that has been made.

He said: “We have reviewed the data and will be talking to the DfE and our schools about changes that we believe need to be made to data relating to particular schools which could make a difference to our league table placement.

“Data on progress has not yet been published but we are at or around national average for these measures.

“It doesn’t fully take into account the number of migrant children in our schools who speak English as an additional language, which of course will have an impact on the overall picture.

“Currently, 34 per cent of pupils in Year 6 are migrant children and we also have the second highest rate of pupils starting in primary schools outside of normal point of entry into school.

“We’ve invested £250,000 in the past year in a new EAL academy to support the teachers of migrant children to enable this group to reach their full potential. This data also fails to recognise the huge progress we have made in the past year to improve the education we offer.

“The council is the most improved local authority in the country for the performance of our schools with Ofsted in the past year. Just over 80 per cent of our schools are now judged good or better by Ofsted and our school improvement team was one of only two to be awarded the top grade of effective this year.

He added: “We are working with all schools considered to be under performing and we expect data to improve significantly next year.”

According to the results rankings, the best performing school in Peterborough was Wittering where all its 35 11-year-olds reached Level 4 in reading, writing and maths and also made progress in line with the national average.

The poorest performance was at Dogsthorpe Academy, in Central Avenue, where 56 pupils took the Key Stage 2 tests with 44 per cent reaching Level 4 in the three key areas.

Over the last seven years, the council spent £110 million creating an additional 8,282 places in Peterborough schools. And this year it is spending £26 million creating more than 1,800 places.

Cllr Holdich added: “Providing state-of-the-art facilities and focusing on supporting schools to drive up educational standards and attainment gives our young people the best possible opportunity to reach their full potential.”

Jonathan Lewis, the council’s assistant director for children’s services, said: “We’re not happy with the figures but a lot of hard work is going on in many of these schools. I am confident that next year our position in the table will be much better.”

A DfE spokesman said: “If the council has concerns we will listen.”

But he refused to comment on the council’s claims about the impact of the number of children with English as a second language.