Credit where it’s due: This week’s news, in a report published by Ofsted, that most Peterborough pupils are being educated in primary and secondary schools rated as good or outstanding, is welcome.
It’s confirmation that we have some good schools, excellent heads, talented teachers and gifted children and that the programme of academisation, endorsed by the city council over the last few years, as well as a strong focus on new buildings and an ambitious forward capital programme, is now paying dividends.
Is it the whole story? By no means. We still languish at the bottom of national league tables for educational attainment and have a major problem attracting newly qualified teachers to pursue their careers in our city.
Where we do have success, the change can be dramatic. Greenwood Dale Trust has taken the worst school in my constituency, Welland Primary (now Welland Academy) and turned it around, as well as delivering a superb Ofsted inspection at the new City of Peterborough Academy. There are other examples, too. Jack Hunt and Thomas Deacon Academy have struggled over the years but are powering ahead now - although we still have the unresolved issue of the Voyager Academy.
For all that, our local teachers are heroic in their efforts, given the social and demographic challenges they face each day, including the problem of children without English as their Mother tongue, absenteeism, lack of ambition for too many indigenous children and the “churn” of kids in and out of school, due to their parents’ peripatetic lifestyles, which inevitably have resource and exam attainment implications.
So where next for us?
We really need to replicate what happened in our capital - the so-called London Challenge, launched in 2003, which has revolutionised school standards across London.
Why not a Peterborough challenge? A collective decision by teachers, local politicians, chief executives, businesses, parents and other key city stakeholders that we will no longer tolerate under performance - focused on the most underperforming schools.
Ofsted has shown in their data produced this week, that schools’ performance is not actually driven by deprivation or material disadvantage but by excellent professional leadership, vision, drive, a focus on standards and pastoral care.
If London can do it, then why can’t Peterborough?