Peterborough education chiefs welcome progress in primary exam results

Cllr Lynne Ayres
Cllr Lynne Ayres

Peterborough education chiefs have said they are pleased with the progress made by schools after the percentage of primary children achieving the expected standard rose this year - but the city still sits second bottom in the national tables.

The provisional data for the SATS tests taken by children leaving primary school was released last week, with 55 per cent of youngsters reaching the expected standard in reading, writing and maths. Last year, the provisional results showed 52 per cent of children in Peterborough reached the expected standard - although this figure was rounded up to 54 per cent when the final ratified results were released in January.

Councillor Lynne Ayres, Peterborough City Council cabinet member for children’s services, education, skills and the university said: “We are pleased these provisional results show a slight increase in the number of children reaching the required standard in reading, writing and maths, rising from 54 per cent last year to 54.5 per cent. It is usual for the figure to rise further when the final data set is received in January, as it did last year.

“Although we are heading in the right direction and closing the gap on the national average, we know that we need to do more to see the pace of change increase.

“In recent months we have been working with academy trusts and primary and secondary headteachers to develop a school-led improvement model, which is being used in other parts of the country, including Tower Hamlets in London. This model makes use of the expertise and capacity within the city to provide targeted support and development for all schools in Peterborough, with links to other areas of the country which face similar challenges.

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“The well documented financial challenges that we face mean there isn’t the capacity there once was to invest in areas such as school improvement and staff development and there are fewer roles which support families. All of this impacts our ability to improve and is why it is necessary for schools to support one another in these areas. We are also working across a range of academy trusts, both locally based and nationally, which have different pressures and challenges.

“Only by working together will we see real improvement in the attainment and progress of pupils, which this school-led model looks to achieve. Across all partners - schools, governors, local authority staff and others - there is a real sense of urgency in the need to drive change.

“The council has the third lowest funded education service in the country (out of 150 local authorities) which limits our capacity to support improvement.

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“However, we know that by working together with partners we can drive real change. Through partnership work, we’ve been able to achieve a reduction in the ratio of teachers to pupils across the city. For the first time we are now below national levels - meaning there are more teachers in our classrooms. We’ve achieved this by working with partners to improve our initial teacher training (through Teach East) and our recruitment campaign www.teachpeterborough.gov.uk. This change alone will drive improved outcomes when these pupils reach attainment age.

“In addition to this, we have also been working closely with schools still under local authority control and provisional data shows that 60 per cent of Key Stage 2 children in our schools have met the expected standard this year. Our focus here has been on working together and ensuring schools have a real focus on quality of teaching and learning and that leadership is strong.”

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Stuart Mansell, 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. This is against a background of extremely tight budgets, and challenges within the city that in many respects are quite unique, including challenges around recruitment.”

More information about the school-led model, plus an update on education services as a whole, is contained within the agenda for the meeting of the Peterborough City Council Children and Education Scrutiny Committee, which will be held at Peterborough Town Hall on September 11. You can read the agenda here - https://democracy.peterborough.gov.uk/documents/s39847/7.%20Education%20Update%20Report%20-%20CESC%20-%20190911.pdf

The meeting is open to the public.