Schools initiative is ‘long overdue’

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A NEW initiative to drive up educational attainment in Suffolk is ‘long overdue’ after the county plummeted down the league tables, according to a headteacher.

Geoff Barton, head at King Edward VI School, in Bury St Edmunds, says the county needs a ‘reality check’ after it was ranked 121st out of 150 local authorities for GCSE exam results.

He is involved in Suffolk’s Raising the Bar project, which aims to boost achievement by introducing more challenge into the system.

Mr Barton, who will work with other secondary heads, said: “It’s long overdue. You look at how Suffolk performs compared to other similar places and we really don’t do well enough. We need to have a reality check and say let’s collectively start putting the county’s schools on the educational map.”

The initiative also aims to improve connections between employers, schools and colleges to link available jobs with the skills needed.

A nine month inquiry will be led by Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce and former adviser to Tony Blair. It will ask councillors, employers, education and community leaders as well as governors questions such as how the county can ensure an appropriate balance of support and challenge to schools and how can employers define the capabilities they need for the workplace?

Cllr Graham Newman, the county council’s portfolio holder for education, said: “It’s about raising the game and getting more challenge into the system.”

When asked why the league table results are so low, he said: “While we’ve been improving every year we haven’t been improving as fast as others. One reason is we’re lumbered with this three-tier system, which we’re putting right.”