Positive steps for Peterborough schools

Jonathan 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

A s we come to the end of the academic year, thoughts start turning towards the summer holidays, exam results and preparations for next year, writes Jonathan Lewis, Peterborough City Council director of education.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in education across the city for their hard work over the past ten months.

I t’s fair to say that 2018-19 has been highly challenging, but we have made positive steps and achieved some great things.

We have asked schools to tweet or post on Facebook about final week activities or highlights of the academic year using the hashtag #pboroschools from Monday, so please look out for these and share and re-tweet them.

This week saw the interim Key Stage 2 results published, giving a national picture in terms of the general outcome.

Nationally, 65 per cent of pupils reached the expected standard in reading, writing and maths (combined) in 2019, which is up from 64 per cent in 2018.

Local outcomes will be published when the provisional results are announced on Thursday, 5 September.

One highlight from the past year was the news that over 82.5 per cent of the city’s primary schools were judged by Ofsted to be either Good or Outstanding.

I am extremely proud of this achievement - it shows the level of dedication by everyone in education in the city and their abiding willingness to improve.

One of the latest schools to receive some positive news on this front was the Duke of Bedford Primary School in Thorney.

Ofsted Inspectors visited the school last month and were impressed with several aspects of education there, judging the school as good overall.

They noted that actions the school’s headteacher, other senior leaders, governors and the local authority have taken led to good improvements in outcomes over the past year.

School leaders at the primary school also responded well to the recommendations of the previous inspection, including seeking external support to improve teaching.

The inspectors noted that pupils are making good progress in English and maths due to the quality of teaching and added that teachers have good subject knowledge and make learning fun and engaging.

So a big well done to all at Duke of Bedford Primary School!

You may be aware that from September 2020, relationships education, health education and sex and relationships education will become statutory subjects in schools.

Schools across the country have been advised to begin preparing for this during the next academic year and here in Peterborough plans are already under way.

We have set up a working party to produce guidance for Peterborough and Cambridgeshire schools on working with parents to develop policies, explain the changes in the statutory requirements and gauge any concerns.

The working party’s membership comprises of local authority advisers and headteachers and we will also be talking to faith groups and young people to gain their perspective.

The issue of schools becoming academies has recently been highlighted in the media, a topic which always generates debate.

Several city schools have become academies in recent years, a decision which is made by the schools themselves, rather than the council.

Whilst we are not directly responsible for academies, we still work with staff, offer support and challenge if we feel they are not delivering.

We take a pragmatic view on who runs schools - be it the local authority, an academy trust or faith organisation - our focus must be that the education being delivered is up to standard.

Finally, the challenges city schools are facing due to government funding cuts will be discussed at a meeting of the council’s Education Scrutiny committee later this month.

I have written to headteachers to gauge how our schools have been individually affected and some of the responses are highly concerning.

For example, one school reported in had to cut subjects from its curriculum, others had reduced spending on learning equipment and cut back on teaching assistants.

This feedback will allow us to make the government aware of the severity of the situation in Peterborough and the urgent need for additional funding.