Peterborough Education chief: “The gap is closing, but it is closing too slowly’

Jonathan Lewis, service director for Education for PCC and CCC EMN-180519-081013009Jonathan Lewis, service director for Education for PCC and CCC EMN-180519-081013009
Jonathan Lewis, service director for Education for PCC and CCC EMN-180519-081013009
More than 100 new teachers have been recruited in Peterborough in an attempt to improve the city’s educational performance.

Peterborough once again finished second bottom of national Key Stage 2 tables this year, measuring pupil’s performance when they leave primary school.

Provisional results show 55 per cent of youngsters hit the expected standard in reading, writing and maths, compared to a national average of 65 per cent. Last year the provisional results saw 52 per cent of youngsters hit the expected standard - this was increased to 54 per cent when the verified results were released in December. It is expected there will be another rise when the verified figures are released later this year.

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The provisional figures also show that less than half of boys in Peterborough taking the tests reached the required standard this year.

Cllr Lynne AyresCllr Lynne Ayres
Cllr Lynne Ayres

Peterborough only finished above Bedford in the league tables, and Peterborough MP Lisa Forbes said she had ‘little hope’ of seeing the situation improve in the near future.

But Peterborough City Council director of education Jonathan Lewis said he was confident improvements could be made. He said: “We are pleased to see an improvement in the results for the third year running - but we are hugely concerned about where we sit in the national picture. The gap is closing, but it is closing too slowly.

“Everyone is working extremely hard to make a difference.

“For the first time the pupil-teacher ratio is below the national average. There are 107 new teachers in the city since 2018. “Recruitment and retention of teachers has always been an issue, but we now have our own teaching academy, Teach East. People are now coming to Peterborough - there is so much going on.”

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Shailesh Vara MP has revealed he wil join the race to be the next Speaker of The House of CommonsShailesh Vara MP has revealed he wil join the race to be the next Speaker of The House of Commons
Shailesh Vara MP has revealed he wil join the race to be the next Speaker of The House of Commons

Despite the improvements, Mr Lewis said there was still work to be done, especially with helping boys.

This year, just 48 per cent of boys met the expected standard in Peterborough, compared to a national level of 60 per cent. Last year Peterborough’s score was 49 per cent.

Sixty two per cent of girls in Peterborough achieved the level - compared to 70 per cent nationally. Last year Peterborough’s score was 55 per cent.

Mr Lewis said: “All schools will be aware of the issues, and they will be developing their own action plan to improve the results.

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Lisa Forbes, MP for PeterboroughLisa Forbes, MP for Peterborough
Lisa Forbes, MP for Peterborough

“We do need to look at boys’ results - especially white British boys. We don’t have specifics on the results looking at issues like deprivation yet, but we have to be targeting these issues.”

Cllr Lynne Ayres Peterborough City Council cabinet member for children’s services, education, skills and the university, said she was confident a new strategy which sees schools across the city working together would also see results. She said: “Before, with the schools belonging to different academy trusts, as well as council maintained schools, the schools were not working together. Now everyone is working together to improve things for everyone.”

The council has also been given a funding boost, which will see the amount of money available per pupil increase, They have also been given cash to help pupils with special education needs (SEN).

Cllr Ayres added: “This will take time. People at schools are disappointed with the results, despite the improvement. But there is an enthusiasm to get things to improve more, that there was not there before.”

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Ms Forbes said funding was vital to improve results. She said: “I would have expected that Peterborough being placed at the bottom of the school league table last year would have served as a wake-up call, if not an outright cry for help. Yet it seems that nothing has really improved. Peterborough pupils also now suffer from one of the widest disadvantage gaps in the country. Regrettably, I have little hope of the situation improving for the majority of schools in my constituency. Boris Johnson promised to reverse the cuts to education but the vast majority of schools in our city won’t see any real increase in funding. This is an insult to families, staff and pupils who have borne the brunt of Tory austerity for the last nine years. All children deserve access to a decent education regardless of their background.”

North West Cambridgeshire MP Shailesh Vara welcomed the extra money being sent to Peterborough schools. He said: “I am pleased to see a marginal improvement in these results but clearly we have a long way to go.

“I know that Cllr Lynne Ayres and Jonathan Lewis are working closely with local schools and it is important they continue to do so, as Peterborough’s results still need to be significantly higher up the league table. I have made my views clear to the relevant people on a number of occasions and will continue to work with them.

“I am particularly encouraged by the recent government announcement of increased per pupil funding by 2021/22 to a minimum of £4,000 for each primary school student. I very much hope that this additional funding will help improve local results.”

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Stuart Mansell, chair of the Peterborough Primary Heads Group and headteacher of Nene Valley Primary School said: “Peterborough headteachers from both maintained schools and academies have been working very hard during the past year to establish a firm foundation for making improvements to Key Stage Two outcomes. This doesn’t happen overnight, despite our sense of urgency.

“Some increase in performance has clearly been made, but for long lasting improvements, schools and academies have to look beyond Year 6 and manage their resources as effectively as they can.”