Two leading Bury St Edmunds headteachers have given a mixed verdict on Ofsted’s renewed criticism of Suffolk’s education standards.
Geoff Barton, of King Edward VI, and Vicky Neale, of County Upper, spoke out after the watchdog highlighted the gap in achievement between Suffolk and the national average from Key Stages 2 to 4 in its annual regional report.
In the report, Sean Harford, regional director for the East of England, said focused inspections in the county in September ‘gave us cause for concern’ with 29,000 pupils attending schools that are not yet good.
Geoff Barton, whose school is among the Bury Schools Partnership, hit out at the ‘broad brush’ approach and noted there are ‘many superb high achieving schools in Suffolk’.
He said: “All of us living in Suffolk know we need to do more to improve standards. I don’t know quite how this constant naming and shaming is supposed to help us to do that.
“We need to attract more people to be part of a mission to improve standards in Suffolk. The more people are sniping from the sidelines, the more difficult it will be to recruit really good people.”
Mrs Neale, whose school was rated ‘outstanding’ in the recent raft of inspections and is part of the Bury Academy Trust, said education bosses were working ‘very hard’ to address the issues but highlighted the county is still behind the national average despite improvements this year.
She said: “There are pockets of good practice in Suffolk. It’s more about the whole county focus which hasn’t been there for a long time and I think Suffolk has realised that.
“Suffolk knows it needs to improve - it’s making it a priority. Whether it actually knows what it needs to do to improve remains to be seen.”
Mrs Neale added that she didn’t think the switch to two tier education had helped.
Cllr Lisa Chambers, cabinet member for education at Suffolk County Council, said improving attainment is the authority’s ‘top priority’.
She said: “We absolutely recognise the points that have been made in Ofsted’s annual report. These issues are well known to us and are why we set up, and are now implementing, the Raising the Bar programme. We’re pleased that Ofsted has recognised the work we and schools are doing to drive up attainment.
“The latest Key Stage 2 and GCSE results show that Suffolk is making progress in the direction. This work will most certainly continue.”