Schools in Suffolk and Hackney to join forces in wave of new proposals

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Schools in Suffolk and Hackney are joining forces in an ambitious package of proposals to boost educational attainment in the county.

The partnership has been established following a 10 month independent inquiry commissioned by Suffolk County Council into school performance.

The report, titled No School an Island, by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) highlights improvements achieved in schools in the London borough from 2005 to 2012 and argues that Suffolk could make similar gains through the collaboration.

The county has plummeted in recent league table results landing third from bottom for attainment at Key Stage Two and 142nd out of 150 local authorities for GCSEs.

The report says: “We recognise that a London local authority may not at first glance appear an obvious choice of partner for a county characterised by its rural and coastal setting. Our intention is deliberately to provoke a more radical shift in outlook, exposing schools to ideas and approaches which can help move the county out of its comfort zone.”

A cultural, professional and educational exchange programme will be set up to benefit both areas.

In a further move, bosses at the RSA emphasise that headteachers and local leaders need to move from ‘focusing overwhelmingly on their particular school or community to leading and championing action across the whole county’.

Their other recommendations include:

n Isolated small rural schools of less than 100 pupils enter a federation of schools to establish new relationships, maximise resources and achieve cost savings.

n Establishing a future leadership exchange programme between Suffolk and London through which outstanding mid-career teachers can expand their experience.

n Every school establish a parents’ council with representatives from the community to enhance the school’s openness and accountability.

n School partnerships explore options to pool a percentage of their pupil premium on joint approaches to narrow the achievement gap.

The county council is expected to publish its formal response to the report in July.

Cllr Lisa Chambers, cabinet member of education, skills and young people, said: “When we commissioned the RSA to lead the Raising the Bar inquiry, we had one very clear objective in mind - to find solutions that would help improve the educational attainment of Suffolk children now and in the future.

“Whilst we will take time to assess fully all the report’s recommendations, the proposed partnership with Hackney is something we’re very positive about and have already started to implement. This isn’t about replicating exactly what Hackney has done because that wouldn’t necessarily work in Suffolk. We know that much can be achieved from closer working with them and that fresh ideas will come from partnerships like this.

“Educating young people is both our moral and social duty and as such, Suffolk County Council has made it clear that improving the attainment is our number one priority.

“We all want to give our children the very best start in life and this report sets us on a stronger and more focused path to success.”