Eric Winstone is right to provide an alternative view on Peterborough secondary schools to that put forward by the city’s MP, Stewart Jackson (Veteran head defends schools: 19 February).
Mr Jackson states that “nothing is as important as driving up academic standards” and follows up with “we need a root and branch overhaul of secondary education in Peterborough.” I thought that was precisely what the academies programme was supposed to do. The coalition government’s flagship policy is to encourage, and indeed in some cases, force, schools deemed to be underperforming to become academies, thus taking them outside the control of local authorities. So let’s be quite clear – local authorities have increasingly less influence as to how schools are run. It’s academy sponsors that now have the lion’s share of responsibility for schools. Can we please have interviews, quotes, opinions and investigations into what academy sponsors do, how they are set up and how they plan to deliver improvements to local schools. Mr Jackson might even wish to convene a conference of all local academy sponsors in order to ask them how they are going to work together for the overall benefit of city schools.
In my professional life supporting classroom behaviour and management I was proud to have visited every Peterborough school, primary, secondary and special. Although now retired I still undertake work in local schools when asked. I don’t merely view and remember schools through rose-tinted glasses. Of course there are improvements that could, and should, be made. Every school looks to improve and to adapt to (ever) changing government and Ofsted requirements. High quality leadership and management is vital in this process and there is plenty in Peterborough to be proud of.
Eric Winstone was, until recently, the head of a fine school with superb buildings, friendly and dedicated staff and with a reputation for supporting and challenging its pupils and wider community. He is not alone in this dedication and hard work. Many of your readers will have stories, anecdotes and fond memories about schools and teachers within their own experience. Talk of “driving up academic standards” is easy – we all agree with that. But a ‘root and branch overhaul” is not the answer. Identifying and building on existing successes, many of which are under our noses, is.