July 30 2014 Latest news:
Saturday, June 21, 2014
The headlines flowing from the latest Department for Education analysis are alarming: Norwich is the worst city in England for GCSEs. And while this is terrible for the city, the breakdown of results for other age groups and districts is also often dispiriting.
But although this data is bad, it is important to note that it reflects where things stood one year ago. It is perhaps most useful as an indication of the scale of the challenge facing our education system.
Norfolk County Council would hope that we will one day look back on 2012-13 as the nadir, and 2013-14 as the turning point.
Last year’s two-pronged attack from Ofsted and the Department for Education left it fearing it could be stripped of children’s services, and the council made improving the situation an urgent political priority, with resources to match.
It has been muscular in intervening in schools causing concern - often controversially, when sacking governors, taking control of budgets and pushing for academy conversion.
Individual schools undoubtedly feel under huge pressure from Ofsted too, knowing that a poor report can damage the school and individual careers.
The council is now in a difficult period where new information continues to show how bad things were last year, but there is little concrete information about whether things have improved since.
There are, however, some positive signs.
Last year, Ofsted highlighted the number of Norfolk schools which failed to meet its basic expectation of being judged at least “good”.
Now, 70pc of schools are judged “good” or “outstanding” - an 11 point increase since last year.
Another concern was the percentage of 16 years olds gaining the government’s GCSE gold standard. Norfolk plunged 20 places in the national table, but even this masked the dire position of Norwich and Great Yarmouth.
Now, according to the latest data from schools, 60pc of 16 year olds are expected to get the gold standard in this summer’s GCSEs - hitting the council’s target, and matching the national average for 2013.
The council says the figures for Norwich are predicted to improve faster than elsewhere in the county, by 8 percentage points, while the improvement in Great Yarmouth could be half that.
There is also positive data for primary schools.
As yet these are only projections, and confirmation is months away. And even if proved correct, the challenge of sustaining improvement, and making all Norfolk schools are “good” by 2016, will remains both huge and urgent.