Peterborough education chief seeks rapid improvement after ‘hugely disappointing’ SATs results

Jonathan Lewis, service director for education at Peterborough City Council and Cambridgeshire County Council EMN-180519-081630009
Jonathan Lewis, service director for education at Peterborough City Council and Cambridgeshire County Council EMN-180519-081630009
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Jonathan Lewis, Peterborough City Council director of education:

Last week saw the publication of provisional Key Stage 2 results, which have subsequently attracted much coverage.

It goes without saying that our league position needs rapid improvement and we will continue to work with education leaders in the city to achieve this.

Although these are only provisional results and the picture may change slightly come the final outcomes in December, it is hugely disappointing and we accept that much more needs to be done to close the gap to the national average.

We can achieve this, but it will take time and we have to look at the areas where we can really make a difference.

We will continue to focus on getting as much progress into our children as possible and concentrate on leadership in our schools.

We are also in the middle of a review of our education services through our partnership with Cambridgeshire County Council.

This is being carried out with a view to joining services to provide more capacity, a greater focus on what makes a difference and being outward-looking at best practice across the country.

So in essence, remaining the same is not an option, either for schools or the Local Authority.

We have already made great strides with reading - with the provisional results showing a four per cent increase in the number of pupils achieving the expected outcome.

Whilst results have improved significantly since 2016 and 84 per cent of the city’s primary schools have been rated as good or outstanding, there is absolutely no question that we have to do better.

I am meeting the leaders of primary schools on Thursday to ensure further efforts continue to get Peterborough where it needs to in the league tables.

September marks the start of the new school year and as you can imagine it’s a particularly busy time of year for us, with many exciting challenges and opportunities ahead.

One of the most pressing issues facing the city is the rapid rise in population, which has led to a sharp increase in school pupil numbers.

As a result we need to create room for an extra 60 pupils a year for the next five years by looking to build new schools or working to expand our existing ones.

Last week, the council’s planning committee approved plans for a substantial expansion of Ken Stimpson school which will see it increase in size from some 1,014 pupils to 1,650.

This will see a new two-storey block of classrooms built on part of the school’s field, a single storey extension to its dining room, as well as extensive internal re-modelling.

The number of pupils between 11-16 will increase from 866 to 1350 (so an increase of 484) and the sixth form from 148 pupils to 300.

The number of full time staff or equivalent will increase from 95 to 115 (an increase of 20) and the school will increase by 60 pupils per year over a five year period.

This is an exciting development and I’m personally looking forward to seeing the it completed over the coming years.

Since 2013 we have built ten new schools and carried out over 20 school expansions to cater for 4,006 more pupils, which is the equivalent of 133 classrooms of 30 children in each class.

We do get help in the form of Government grants for this, but the council has to put up a significant amount of the capital for building and extending schools.

This year alone the cost is £50m. Peterborough City Council will put in £27m of this from its capital budget, which is a sizeable amount. Since 2007, we have spent over £300m of capital on creating additional school places.

It takes time to get planning consent and to build a school. We work four years in advance, so that means when babies are born this year, we have already set the wheels in motion to provide primary school places for them when they reach school age.

Each year we have to prioritise the schools that need additional spaces the most, as we don’t have a bottomless pit of cash.

It’s our policy to create local places for local children. This is why it’s important that parents submit applications for their child’s first choice school as quickly as possible (within their catchment areas) ahead of the deadline of 31 October.

For more information about school admissions and how to apply visit www.peterborough.gov.uk/residents/schools-and-education/school-admissions