Educating Norfolk: League tables and Ofsted criticism present similar problems for Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 07:00 25 February 2014 | UPDATED: 11:16 25 February 2014

Lisa Chambers, Suffolk County Council's cabinet member for education, skills and young people.

Lisa Chambers, Suffolk County Council's cabinet member for education, skills and young people.


Education in Suffolk, like that in Norfolk, has been under scrutiny for its persistent poor showing in national league tables, and vocal concerns from Ofsted.

Earlier this month, chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw told MPs: “We have some counties in England that are performing incredibly badly, Suffolk and Norfolk being two of them.”

Last September, inspectors were dispatched in a blitz of inspections of 33 Suffolk schools, similar to the 28-school operation in Norfolk earlier in the year. In its report, Ofsted said standards in schools were “unacceptable”.

In another echo of Norfolk’s experiences, Suffolk County Council itself became the target of the inspectors in January when a five-day visit asked how well it supports school improvement.

The council is awaiting the outcome.

Suffolk and Norfolk came 137th and 138th out of 151 authorities in England in last month’s GCSE league tables, but while for Norfolk this represented a 20 place drop, for Suffolk it at least showed an improvement of five places.

The situation with primary schools was less positive, with Suffolk the joint fourth-worst authority in England for the number of pupils reaching the required level four standard in reading, writing and maths. 70pc met the target, compared to 71pc in Norfolk and an England average of 75pc.

Suffolk County Council has said raising education standards is its “top priority”, and has launched a Raising the Bar programme.

The scheme’s aims include building better relationships between schools, further education and businesses to give pupils work skills, complete moves to a two-tier school system, and recruit more school governors and mentors.

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