Last week’s shockingly poor Key Stage 2 SATs results must be a wake-up call for all of us in the city: The city council, city councillors, MPs, academies, teachers, parents, governors, we all need to acknowledge the gravity of the situation: Bottom of the pile across the whole of England. The results for boys was appalling with just 35% reaching national standards. No other local authority slipped below 42%. Frankly, it’s an embarrassment.
We can’t let this situation continue, not least as it will undermine the economic viability as an attractive place to live work and play. Urgent action is required right now.
What’s really depressing too is the litany of excuses from the “usual suspects”, focusing on procedures, structures, curricula etc., rather than the results themselves and not how we try to get out of the mess we’re in - the Chair of the primary school heads but the city council need to focus on solutions and not only the problems. Excuses that we’ve heard year after year for the last ten years to explain/excuse poor performance. We are bottom of national league tables now – how do we nuance that?
I think the majority of teachers in Peterborough do a fantastic and heroic job under very difficult conditions but they need more help and they need it soon.
Of course, I know we have special circumstances to deal with: Massive levels of inward migration and high numbers of non-English speakers, unprecedented “churn” of pupils into and out of schools throughout the year, teacher recruitment issues, poor parental support in some schools and low historic attainment levels but none of these challenges are new – after all, I’ve been banging on about them to Ministers for many years. The lack of proper infrastructure planning and mass migration which has given rise to a school places crisis was surely a big reason for the significant Leave vote in Peterborough at the recent European Union referendum.
First things first, the Leader of the City Council must step aside as Cabinet Member for Schools and appoint someone else to this important role – being a portfolio holder and Leader is too big a job for one person. Secondly, the city council needs to appoint a dedicated Schools Director – Children’s Services, including safeguarding and adoption and fostering, is also too large a responsibility for one individual. We need a schools summit in Peterborough to work towards developing a “London Challenge”-style strategy (which has driven up attainment standards in the capital) and we need to specifically focus on failing academies and teacher recruitment and seek government intervention directly if necessary.
We all have a role to play. The time for excuses has come to an end. The city council must show leadership and vision. I stand ready to help in any way I can.
Let’s hope we never again suffer the ignominy of being bottom of the class. Peterborough is better than that.