EDUCATION portfolio holder, cllr Oliver Gerrish presented his first report on education to the full council last night.
In the report, he described the relationship between the local education authority and the growing number of academies as “partnership working.”
His statement is a radical departure from the previous portfolio holder who saw the academies as “Grammar schools by stealth.”
But his report did not pass muster with the Thurrock Tories.
Shadow portfolio holder, cllr Mike Revell examined the Key stage 2 results (primary) and said:
“Once again, there doesn’t seem to be any real challenge to the poor set of primary results.
“The sooner many of these primary schools are academies the better.
“Becoming an academy has been the key to the success of the senior schools and they can replicate this.
Cllr Gerrish was also asked to give a date as to when primary schools would be at the national standard.
Cllr Gerrish said: “We are looking at two to three years.
Cllr Gerrish’s speech in full
“I am pleased to introduce my first report as portfolio lead responsible for education. My report sets out in summary an analysis of education results comparing Thurrock’s outcome with the national benchmark. I am responsible for education in a changing landscape and with a strong but changed role for the local authority. From my analysis it is clear that educational attainment in Thurrock is on a clear pathway to success, with improved results at every key stage.
I am pleased to note the very significant improvements made at the borough’s Pupil Referral Unit and the OFSTED judgement that it no longer requires special measures.
I highlight the progress made in implementing the capital strategy and the progress made in relation to SEN and admissions issues.
Finally I note the emerging impact of recent legislation and policy guidance and its implications for Thurrock.
THE STATE OF EDUCATION IN THURROCK
This year attainment at the Early Years and Foundation stage has improved so that
Early Years and Foundation stage Thurrock was rated 88/152 and was 3rd quartile
This is a significant improvement from 128/152 and 4th quartile just two years ago.
At Key stage 1 (age 6/7)
In reading Thurrock was rated 112/152 and was 3rd quartile in writing Thurrock was rated 131/152 and was 4th quartile in maths Thurrock was rated 81/152 and was 3rd quartile This is an area which is being targeted for support to give pupils a good platform on which to progress.
At Key stage 2 (age 10/11)
Pupils achieving expected levels in English and Maths increased by 3% and narrowed the gap with the national average
Thurrock’s ranking has now improved to 121/152 but remains in the 4th quartile
Thurrock’s performance is now 3% below the national average
Boys eligible for Free School meals, a historically low attaining group, made particularly strong progress of 13% as a result of specific programmes of support
Schools which were targeted by school improvement programmes made particularly good progress.
At Key stage 4 (age 15/16)
The number of pupils attaining at least 5A*-C grades including English and Maths improved from 56.8% to 60.1%, well above the national average
Thurrock ranks 45/151 local authorities and is in the 2nd quartile.
At key stage 5 (age 17/18)
In Thurrock, just under 90% of pupils entered achieved 3 or more A levels or equivalent compared with just under 81% nationally
97.4% of pupils entered achieved 2 or more A levels, compared with 93.6% nationally.
At age 19
Figures for students aged 19 achieving a level 2 (equivalent to GCSE) or a level 3 (equivalent to A level) qualification are published for the previous year. The latest published figures for 09/10 show Thurrock improved by 8% in the number reaching a level 2 qualification although this is 5% behind the national average of 79%. Results improved by 0.5% at level 3, although this is 11% behind the national average of 52%.
It is clear that there is improvement throughout the education system in Thurrock and schools and pupils are to be congratulated on their efforts and attainment. A strong focus needs to be maintained on improving our results further, particularly at KS1 and KS2, which lays a vital foundation for later achievement at secondary school. There is now a permanent headteacher in all but one of our primary schools, a very different picture to two years ago and one which has contributed to a strong foundation for improving attainment. While attainment at 16 remains strong, there is more to do in translating this into reaching at least national averages for level 2 and 3 qualifications at aged 19. This will remain a priority.
In areas where there have been good outcomes, I am pleased with the strong partnership work which has taken place between schools themselves supporting each other to make progress, and the support given by the school improvement team. These strong partnerships were commented on favourably by the Peer Review of Education by a national team of experts which took place this year and which I have no doubt have played their part in an improving picture.
Post 16, there are a number of strong providers in the borough, with strong school sixth form collaborations alongside an outstanding sixth form college, which last year sent 520 young people to university. I am pleased to report that over the last year, 17% more apprenticeships were secured in Thurrock with a high percentage of those retained at the end of their apprenticeships.
Behaviour and Attendance
I am pleased also to report on improvements in relation to school exclusions. Behaviour in secondary schools in Thurrock is good. OFSTED judges behaviour as good or outstanding in 89% of our secondary schools, better than schools in similar authorities and better than the national average. The number of pupils with a fixed term exclusion is now down and the number of pupils permanently excluded from schools is also down and is now lower than the national average.
The number of pupils who are persistently absent from primary schools has been a priority to address as it has been far too high historically. I am pleased to report that this is now reducing significantly and is at its lowest level since 2006/7. This remains a priority for further improvement as Thurrock is still losing more days through persistent absence than similar authorities and when compared with the national picture.
The Pupil Support Service including the Pupil Referral Unit has made significant improvements over the last year and OFSTED judged the PRU in January 2012 as no longer requiring special measures. This is good news for our most vulnerable pupils, who are now receiving a much better level of teaching, support and guidance than has been available before.
Significant developments have taken place to modernise Thurrock’s approach to school admissions and to move from paper based applications to a more streamlined on line process. Online applications have now rocketed to 83%, a huge increase from 24.5% in the previous year and above the national target of 75%. The promotion of the online method, support from schools, a reduction in paper application forms, reducing printed information and advantages in notification of the allocated place have helped parents to apply online.
A significant number of primary schools have benefitted from extensive building works as a result of the primary capital programme. These are enabling modernised buildings and facilities to be available to our children and providing more school places to our growing population. I am delighted to have been to visit some of these projects – with more visits planned – and have seen the quality of these developments first hand.
In addition the 14-19 capital strategy is enabling a skills centre and sixth form provision at Gable Hall school, a vocational skills centre at the Grays Arts and Media College and further building developments at Treetops school. These will help our pupils learn in high quality environments. A new base for pupils across the borough with behavioural needs is also being built at Ormiston Park Academy in partnership with the LA.
During the year, the implications of changes proposed in the SEN Green paper have been debated at Children’s Overview and Scrutiny. While it is too early yet to see any legislative changes which might be proposed, Thurrock is in a good position to move ahead quickly. Parents of children with SEN and disabilities and staff at our two outstanding special schools and our mainstream SEN bases as well as our mainstream schools are all key partners who are contributing to a refresh of our SEN strategy which is currently underway.
The Future Role of the LA
Finally, I would like to note the changing national context against which these developments have taken place. The role of the local authority has changed since with the introduction of the Schools White Paper and the subsequent Education Act 2011. Whilst there is a strong continuing role for the LA, it is a changed one.
The White paper outlines that
“Local authorities have an indispensable role to play as champions of children and parents, ensuring that the school system works for every family and using their democratic mandate to do their best for their population”.
It is important for Thurrock to deliver high quality statutory services, support vulnerable pupils including children who are Looked After, those with SEN and those outside mainstream education. I will continue to ensure a sufficient supply of school places, tackle underperformance and ensure high standards.
I give a continued commitment to achieving this through forging strong partnerships with schools, whatever their status, community, foundation, academy or free school. I aim to strengthen these partnerships even further for the benefit of our children in Thurrock, to make the utmost of the opportunities provided by the regeneration of the borough and to keep up the pace in supporting improved educational outcomes for all.
My first report to Council as portfolio holder for Education is a positive one. I wish to pay tribute to all those who have been involved in the many successes and who will help Thurrock children and young people to reach even greater heights in the years to come.