Schools: We are on the right track - Peterborough City Council leader John Holdich

John Holdich ENGEMN00120131211162123
John Holdich ENGEMN00120131211162123
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In December I made a commitment to leave no stone unturned in the city’s challenge to raise educational attainment.

It’s for this reason I’m pleased to announce that we are investing £150,000 in a partnership with a city-based not-for-profit organisation, Success for All, who will be working with a number of our schools.

Success for All works with more than 60,000 children in more than 130 schools across the UK which face similar challenges to schools in Peterborough. They do this by transforming the way children learn, encouraging pupils to work more collaboratively and changing the way teachers interact with pupils in the classroom.

The results they report are encouraging with attainment levels for disadvantaged pupils ten per cent above the national average. One school that Success for All worked with in Leicester, which has many of the challenges we face, was rated outstanding because of the literacy programme implemented by the organisation. In its 2009 Ofsted inspectors described literacy provision as outstanding and by 2012 it was rated outstanding across the board.

We’re currently identifying which schools will be the first to benefit from our investment in the partnership and we then hope to start work in those schools after the half-term break at the end of February.

I promised a review of education in Peterborough to understand better the unique situation that we face. I’m pleased to let you know that this review is now underway and I expect Councillor Lynne Ayres, who I have asked to lead it, to report back to me in the Spring.

A crucial aspect is understanding how we can be one of the best areas of the country for the percentage of children attending good or outstanding schools, yet have attainment levels below the national average.

We have a hypothesis that in Peterborough we face a unique set of challenges, a perfect storm you might say, which sets us apart from anywhere else in the country. These challenges are that we have lower than average attainment on entry to school, high levels of children who move schools in-year, large numbers of pupils who speak English as an additional language, and many children from disadvantaged backgrounds or with additional needs. Cllr Ayres, with support from an educational specialist, will test whether these factors are indeed impacting on attainment and if there are any other challenges that we might have missed.

The review will be ongoing until the Spring, but in the meantime we won’t be resting on our laurels.

As well as working with Success For All we are also talking to Vivacity, the city’s cultural and leisure charitable trust, about a new scheme to get more children reading regularly.

There has been some great work taking place in the city recently led by the Literacy Trust, which has improved reading rates across the city. We now want to look at how we can further their work, given its importance to the literacy of our children in the city.

Alongside Vivacity we are bidding for external funding to launch a book bus which would visit schools in the city and support children and families with reading and Vivacity is exploring partnership opportunities to deliver a longer term reading service for our schools.

The Key Stage 2 SATs results published in December showed clearly that we need to improve literacy levels in the city. I believe that doing so will support improvements in attainment across the board.

So although the review by Councillor Ayres has only just begun, I hope you can see that we are already taking action to support schools to improve attainment.

Last week I met with Ofsted’s Regional Director Paul Brooker, to discuss the situation in Peterborough. He agreed that we do face a unique challenge and has agreed to share details 
with us of schools in other 
areas which face similar challenges to some of ours which are performing 
better.

Raising attainment in our schools is one of the most 
important challenges we face in the next few years. We have to get it right for the sake of the city’s children and failure is certainly not an option.

It’s a firm belief of mine that actions speak louder than words and I hope you can see that we are taking action to raise attainment levels. Success will not come overnight, it will take time, but I believe we are on the right track.