Peterborough's schools 'doing a great job' despite league table results insists Education Secretary on visit to new university campus
Peterborough's schools are doing a "great job" despite their current struggles in the league tables, the Education Secretary has insisted.
Damian Hinds visited the city earlier today where he was taken to the site of the future campus for the new University of Peterborough at the Embankment.
Mr Hinds, who was joined by Peterborough parliamentary candidate Paul Bristow and senior city councillors, declared that Peterborough has a "great opportunity" should the new university open in 2022 as expected.
And he defended the current education performance in the city which has seen Peterborough come second bottom nationally for Year 6 SATs results in the past three years, while the latest GCSE results saw the city finish below the national average for both attainment and progress made in secondary schools.
Asked about the challenges Peterborough faces having a high number of pupils with English as an additional language (EAL), Mr Hinds told the Peterborough Telegraph: "Peterborough is a brilliant place - it's unique in many different ways. Some of that is about a nationality mix and population mix and that creates brilliant diversity and great cultural awareness for all children.
"There are also issues that come with that which the education system and schools have to deal with, but they deal with that brilliantly.
"Schools in the city are doing a great job. I've had the chance to talk to talk to some of the folks at the local authority about some of the work going on."
Mr Hinds said more is needed to be done to help develop pupils' language and literacy skills in the home, which the Government is working on.
The Department for Education announced this morning that families from disadvantaged backgrounds will be given free access to some of the best children’s educational apps for smart phones and tablets.
Speaking to the PT, Mr Hinds also praised the work of academy trusts which are continuing to take more of Peterborough's schools out of the control of the local authority. He said: "You can have brilliant schools of any types. Academy trusts have been a great force for good in our system. They've created extra innovation."
Mr Bristow said he had been "inspired" by the leadership in many schools he visited, including recently at Fulbridge Academy in New England.
He added: "There's no point in sugarcoating it that Peterborough does face some challenges. Results are improving, and there is a plan to make sure that we do make improvements. A lot of that is working with central government.
"We should celebrate some of the good examples we have of high quality education in this city, as well as seek to improve where we can improve."
The new university is expected to open in 2022, before eventually educating 12,500 students a year.
A recent independent report highlighted a number of concerns about the project, including a lack of leadership and disagreements among key stakeholders, but council leader Cllr John Holdich, who speaking to Mr Hinds, insisted that everyone was now on the same page and that there had been no delays to the opening date of the university.
He told the Secretary of State that university courses will include engineering, agri-tech and computer science.