Suffolk: Schools To Learn From Hackney

Education managers in Suffolk are planning to learn lessons on how to improve standards in schools from Hackney in London.

It is part of a series of ideas and new proposals to improve educational attainment in the county.

Suffolk County Council say the new partnership, is designed to 'stimulate new thinking and create the impetus for more radical change within the county’s education system', has been set up following a 10-month independent inquiry into school performance in Suffolk.

Published today, the report by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) points to improvements that were achieved in schools in the London borough and argues that gains can be achieved in Suffolk.

Between 2005 and 2012, the percentage of Hackney children achieving Key Stage 2 (level 4 or above) in English rose from 69% to 86% - matching the national average for the first time in seven years. In the same period, the percentage of children achieving the equivalent level in maths rose from 64% to 86%, beating the national average by 1%. The rise in GCSE performance was equally significant with the percentage of children gaining A*-C grades (including English and maths) increasing from 34.2% (10.5% below the national average) to 60.2% (0.8% above).

Whilst performance in Suffolk has also improved, it has not done so at the same rate at other areas - forcing the county down the Key Stage 2 and GCSE league tables.

The new Hackney-Suffolk partnership will see a cultural, professional and educational exchange programme set up to benefit both areas - designed to enrich pupils’ learning, broaden teachers’ professional expertise and strengthen leadership at all levels. A new exchange programme for teachers tipped to one day become heads will also be set up.

Councillor Lisa Chambers, Suffolk County Council's 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.”

Councillor Rita Krishna, Hackney Council’s cabinet member for children's services, said:

"We are happy to develop a more formal relationship with Suffolk County Council to help raise educational standards in the county. "Hackney has provided support to colleagues in Suffolk over the last two years, since we were  first approached by Halifax Primary School in Ipswich.

"I cannot overemphasise the hard work, dedication, commitment and strong moral fibre of teachers, governors, and the entirety of the associated workforce to say nothing of the children themselves, that will be needed. Our success was brought about by a huge collective effort in which the whole community joined, willing Hackneys children to succeed.

"We are pleased that Suffolk County Council, in agreeing to formalise our partnership, recognises and shares the strength of our ambition for all children."

The RSA’s ‘No School An Island’ report contains 20 recommendations, including small rural schools with fewer than 100 pupils federating with others to maximise resources, every school establishing a Parents’ Council to ensure their voices are heard and all schools coming together to form a new county-wide, school-led, Suffolk Partnership for Excellence in Learning.

Suffolk County Council is expected to publish its formal response  to the RSA’s report in July 2013.

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