Education Secretary says Peterborough must improve school results as he highlights importance of teacher recruitment

The Education Secretary believes better teacher recruitment will help to address Peterborough's poor performance in the school league tables.

Tuesday, 24th September 2019, 3:32 pm
Peterborough City Council service director for education Jonathan Lewis, cabinet member for education Cllr Lynne Ayres, Gavin Williamson, Paul Bristow and council deputy leader Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald at the Town Hall

Gavin Williamson discussed the city's struggles with education chiefs during a visit last Friday, with Peterborough having come second bottom for Year 6 SATs results four years in a row.

And speaking afterwards to the Peterborough Telegraph he stated more can be done to improve pupil attainment despite acknowledging the challenges of high levels of migration in the city over the past 15 years.

Discussing his meeting at the Town Hall, Mr Williamson told the PT: "We discussed ideas and thoughts on how to be better in the future.

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Peterborough City Council service director for education Jonathan Lewis, cabinet member for education Cllr Lynne Ayres, Gavin Williamson, Paul Bristow and council deputy leader Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald at the Town Hall

"Schools have lagged behind other areas, but what has been good is there's been a real growth in the last few years of Peterborough schools being rated Good or Outstanding by Ofsted.

"A challenge is English not being the first language for quite a number of children. We need to look at how this is best tackled.

"But we see a number of areas around the country that have had a large growth of population that have gone on to be incredibly successful in terms of educational attainment.

"This is why I sat with the city council and looked at what they can do better."

The council has placed great emphasis on recruiting new teachers, including through its own teaching school.

Service director for education Jonathan Lewis has also spoken previously of making Peterborough an attractive place for teachers to work in.

Mr Williamson, who was invited to Peterborough by Conservative parliamentary candidate Paul Bristow, said: "One of the challenging things has been teacher recruitment. This is something that is already starting to be addressed but we can't be complacent.

"We need to drive that up. We want to see results starting to flow from that.

"There's no single thing we can say 'we will do that' which will see a transformation (in the performance of schools). It's a whole set of things.

"The most important thing for children's outcome is the quality of teaching in classrooms."

Peterborough's education chiefs have written to the Government in recent months about a shortage of funding for schools and for children with special education needs and disabilities (SEND).

The PT has also highlighted cutbacks made to schools which have seen their budgets decrease in real terms over recent years.

This includes using lego pieces for laptop keys and losing teaching assistants, with schools asking parents for money to carry out repairs and for extra-curricular activities.

Mr Lewis has also warned that some schools may be forced to close some days during the week.

Asked what the Government was doing to address these concerns, Mr Williamson said: "We have made an announcement of an extra £14.4 billion going to be spent in England. And an extra £4.5 billion on top of that to cover pension costs.

"We're spending an extra £700 million for special educational needs in England over the next year. It's one of the most substantial uplifts in special educational needs funding for the last 10 years.

"This is going to be very much targeting children that need it the most.

"Money spent on special educational needs has increased every year. We're investing more than ever before and we're also doing a review of funding and how best to deliver special educational needs."

Asked what can be done to ease the burden on teachers, so they can focus on the classroom. the Secretary of State replied: "We are sitting down with Ofsted and with trade unions and we are trying to work out how we can take the work load pressures off teachers. I want them to focus on teaching in the classroom.

"There's too much emphasis to prove you're doing something rather than focusing on the roles in the classroom."

Mr Bristow said: "Schools in Peterborough must get better. Too many people just shout about standards from the sidelines, including the Labour MP. I'm getting action.

"Gavin brought some great ideas and offered his support. Every child deserves the best that our schools can offer. We will continue to work together, and with our local teachers, to make that happen."