28/02/2013 1 Comment
Really long day on Tuesday started at 6am when I worked though my emails, made my final notes for the day ahead of a quick blog and out for the hour’s drive to Endeavour House, Ipswich for the first meeting of the day at 9:30am finished just in time for a cup of coffee and straight into the Cabinet meeting at 11am with about 10 debates, votes and lots of public questions ahead, quite a mammoth meeting with an agenda which ranged from consideration of the final pyramid of the School Organisation Review (SOR) to the back office HR processes; so very external items which attracted a number of public speakers to some very internal structural things, I predicted it would take until 5pm, I was wrong it finished at 5:30pm.
There was a packed public gallery and most were there for the SOR debate and most had been at Monday evening’s meeting. After the public questions and thoughtful replies from Cllr. Graham Newman who is the cabinet member for Education, we got down the business of considering the Cabinet paper, for me and as I said yesterday in 2007 I voted for the SOR programme and since then I have consistently voted for the pyramid changes as we have gone through the process, and I chaired the Forest Health pyramid meetings. So for me to vote differently I needed to have heard such new information that outweighed that I had before, to vote different.
Over the past couple of weeks we have seen SATS an action group formed to argue against the proposals for Bury St. Edmunds, Stowmarket and the surrounding schools emerge @SATSinfo & @suffolkaction www.suffolkaction.org.uk and if you have read my blog you’ll know I went to their public meeting on Monday.
I talked about the changing context of the new Government’s strategy on Schools and the emergence of Free schools and Academies. I also said it was true to say when we started the process in 2005 our position in the results league tables at Key Stage 2 and 4 was considerably higher and indeed that since our position has progressively got lower but importantly our Suffolk School’s performance is better and improving both in terms of pure results and Ofsted reports but that improvement is not happening as fast as in other local authority areas hence our slippage in the league tables; later in the debate Cllr. Graham Newman made an interesting point that if 30 pupils had achieved the 5 good grades GCSEs with Maths and English amongst them, the litmus test, we would be mid table at about 90th; still nowhere near good enough but it does indicate the narrow band between middle order and 3rd from bottom.
I went on to say that throughout the process I voted for the SOR proposals and have voted for the changing of the system for 3 to 2 tier re-organisation in each area as the they have come through over the past few years; so accordingly I needed to hear that things have fundamentally changed or new evidence has emerged, to vote differently now.
I talked about other authorities and that as others have looked at this, each have come to the same conclusions Suffolk has, and where it has no be changed that was more to do with political expediency that if the change is right or wrong for educational reasons.
Today there are under 200 middle schools in a system of some 30,000 schools ad I think this is a factor, Education is arranged on a 2 tier model and Key stage 2 and 4 are tests and indicators that come at the end of the two tier system (with the former Key Stage 3 having been dropped precisely because it was mid-way through the two sets of key tests).
I went on to say that on Monday evening one speaker spoke of Eton and how that was 3 tier and whilst I have heard the public school argument before, so nothing new, I think we would all wish that Government could provide the sort of money Eton charges to provide educational and the level of intense Pastoral care that they can afford to offer, but Government simply can’t and so I do not accept that argument.
I concluded my comments by saying that there is of course a need to focus on Education, that is what ‘Raising the Bar’ was commissioned to do and its commissioning was long before we knew the latest results and the position that provides in the league table.
I finished by saying that in my opinion I have heard nothing new to change my mind, I have always listened and remained convinced that the original decision we took was the right one based on the evidence before us and so I would be voting for the proposed changes in the paper and did so when the vote came.