Educating Norfolk: How did it get to this?

Monday, February 24, 2014
7:00 AM

It has been a long and gradual decline. In 2008, Norfolk was ranked 74th in England for pupils gaining five GCSEs at C or above, including English and maths. Its position has fallen every year since, reaching 138th in 2013.

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Some Norfolk educationalists mention a sense of complacency that Norfolk schools were fine at a time when other areas, especially the big cities, were vigorously shaking up their systems.

Ian Clayton, one of Norfolk’s longest-serving education leaders and headteacher of Thorpe St Andrew School, pointed to the effects of two government changes.

He said that when local management of schools (LMS) was introduced in 1988, their financial independence from the council meant there was no longer a strategic oversight of education in the county, while the reorganisation of children’s services in the 2000s to focus on the most vulnerable children shifted attention away from education.

For Gordon Boyd, the county council’s assistant director of children’s services, Norfolk schools retained an inappropriate dependency on the council, despite LMS, leaving a legacy of missed opportunities for innovation and strong leadership.

Others have talked of a historic lack of funding and attention from Whitehall.

A Norfolk County Council request for a Rural Challenge, to mirror the London Challenge which improved education in the capital, was rejected by the Department for Education.

When he retired as assistant director of children’s services in 2012, Fred Corbett said he had faced a constant battle to overcome the prejudices of national education leaders who saw the county as a “backwater”.

Speaking then, he said: “I don’t think it was deliberately anti-Norfolk but it is felt to be a relatively comfortable environment and some of the challenges aren’t appreciated.”

Norfolk may have felt neglected in the past, but, for better or worse, it is now firmly in the government and Ofsted’s spotlight.

11 comments

  • Problem is too much time and attention being focused on troubled children and families while the ordinary average pupil is left to muddle along. Any child showing the slightest chance of being gifted is ignored while time is spent on children whose parents dump then on the school expecting the school to do the parents work for them. Children starting school unable to read, write or communicate is a disgrace and the parents should be sorted out way before school age, or the children removed and given to people who want a child for the right reasons, not just for the money they bring in.

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    DaveG

    Monday, February 24, 2014

  • Relatively low density population leads to lack of jobscareer progression routes for teachers wanting promotion. Result, significant numbers of jaded staff (mainly in the latter stages of their careers) who are just waiting for retirement. Consequence, pupils' education is compromised. In the past I remember a proposal for a scheme that moved teachers around different schools every couple of years in exchange for allowances and of course an enhanced cv. Bring it on.

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    One Horse Town

    Monday, February 24, 2014

  • 'Norfolk ranked 74th in 2008 for students gaining 5 GCSE's or above and now ranked 138th ' - what does that mean? Is it that other counties have improved their results and Norfolk results remain the same, that Norfolk GCSE passes have declined year on year, or maybe a combination of both?

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    Joyce

    Monday, February 24, 2014

  • You make a good point DaveG apart from your rather embarrassing grammatical error in line 7 and your politically motivated conflation at the end of your comment.

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    Thoreauwasright

    Monday, February 24, 2014

  • I apologise for my early morning grammer mistake. Not entirely a political comment, more from experience and observation at the school gates. Biggest regret of my life is that i could not afford private education for my children

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    DaveG

    Monday, February 24, 2014

  • An alternative way of educating children and improving teaching. I think most schools have their own website. If teachers vidioed their lessons for the term; perhaps sixth form media studies pupils could do this; and these were uploaded on to the website, then lessons would be available inside and outside of term time. Children with the ability to race ahead could do so, those who got left behind in their studies could repeat the lessons and catch up. The fining of parents for taking their children on holiday in term time could be abolished. The lessons could be rated by parents, students and other teachers. The Ofsted bureaucracy could be reduced or perhaps even abolished. Now for some creative thinking. Imagine every student having a Smart Card with GCSE subjects they have decided to take on the card. At the end of each term or even each month, pupils could go into a prepared Examination hall, swipe their Smart card on a machine, select the GCSE subject examination paper they want to take and the machine prints out an examination paper for the student. Even if students choose the same subject, the questions could be different. At the same time, the machine could send a copy of the paper to a registered examiner along with a marking schedule to wherever the examiners workplace happens to be. At the end of the examination, the students paper could be sent to the examiner by the machine for marking. Also to incentivise students, if students passed a sufficient number of GCSEs at a required grade for university entrance at the age of 14, the student would be entitled to a free university education. No tuition fees. Let us nurture the gifted and the high flyers.

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    Bob Wootton

    Monday, February 24, 2014

  • There are so many aspects to consider with the question posed. Teaching, in its purest sense, has almost taken a back seat to target setting, performance tables, special needs, etc. It is also obvious that the apparent decline in Norfolk's education standards has gone hand in hand with the increasing social issues facing the county. There is also the question of investment as kids nowadays seem to have access to the latest technology at home etc. but are still expected to go back to traditional methods of learning with perceived out of date equipment in the classroom but chasing the technology rainbow would bankrupt smaller, rural schools which still form a large part of the overall Norfolk profile. The formation of cluster groups has helped in this regard with schools acting together to address some of these issues but there needs to be a top down review of how Norfolk can ensure that the children in this region get what they all deserve, a solid foundation that first of all teaches them to learn (an increasingly difficult proposition) and then builds on this to help them realise their potential positively.

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    Eastangler

    Monday, February 24, 2014

  • Dave G your observation is what happens on a national scale, money is poured into inner city areas and regions with perceived problems and rural regions, despite known poverty and deprivation receive far less funding, So as far as education is concerned this has been reflected in buildings, staffing levels and facilities. I am pretty sure that Norfolk and Suffolk have been very low down the spending and funding tables for education for a long time.I suspect that no one at county hall has cared what schools did for our children and those who had a good education had it simply because of the professionalism of their teachers, not because of the LEA or the government. You make an absurd assertion about children starting school not able to read I have no idea how old you are, but although some could,children were never expected to be able to read or write on starting school at 4 or 5. They were expected to be able to sit still. listen , behave and to take themselves to the toilet and perhaps do their shoe laces, But they were allowed to be children. You sound like a Gove disciple-which is not a compliment

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    Daisy Roots

    Monday, February 24, 2014

  • "For Gordon Boyd, the county council’s assistant director of children’s services, Norfolk schools retained an inappropriate dependency on the council" Is this the same Gordon Boyd whose department objected so much to the independence of Cavell School's governors that they were summarily dismissed and replaced with a compliant Interim Executive Board who could be relied on to deliver Cavell into the hands of the DfE's academy brokers, just as the Council wanted? The irony is painful.

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    djw

    Monday, February 24, 2014

  • Too many people in charge who are thickies with no higher education, too many people in charge who don't care about Norfolk kids and education, too many people with the prejudices fed by the likes of the smart alec reporters at the EDP who think that an accent and a dialect and not coming from London is the same as being dense and not worth educating. I can't read I can't write I can drive a tractor-that's how bright Norfolk kids have been treated since the demise of grammar schools and until the exam performance was made public. Oh and money- the whole county is treated the same way by central government-we, like our kids are quiet, well behaved, not hotbeds of unionism in industry etc so we as a county have had a raw deal for years, and our schools have been underfunded in comparison with many other parts of the country.

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    Daisy Roots

    Monday, February 24, 2014

  • Whenever I see schools on the telly the children sit around a table in a group, whilst I cannot pretend to be an expert on education surely it would be better to have individual desks and no talking unless required? Daisy Roots, I could read and write when I started school {I have my very first exercise book so I an not dreaming} and I had a very happy childhood {early sixties}. Children should have books close to hand from very early on, to read at write at five is not exactly rocket science. Dave G is spot on with his `children for the right reasons` comment.

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    John Bridge

    Monday, February 24, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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