Norfolk faces education challenge after GCSE league table slump

The GCSE league tables showed a disappointing overall performance for Norfolk. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire The GCSE league tables showed a disappointing overall performance for Norfolk. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Friday, January 24, 2014
8:00 AM

Concerns about the state of education in Norfolk have been building for some time, but yesterday’s league tables marked the first time in nine years that the proportion of pupils meeting the government’s key target actually fell.

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The direction is also downwards when compared to other areas, with the county falling from 118th to 138th out of 151 education authorities, and overtaken by an improving Suffolk. Neighbouring Cambridgeshire rose above the national average.

See how your school performed in the 2013 school league tables

Many will see the 2013 results as a line in the sand, and demand definite and clear improvement next year.

The reasons advanced for the poor showing in 2013 are many and varied.

Hewett School associate headteacher Rob Anthony said the county has three factors associated with poor performance – white, working class pupils, rural communities and urban deprivation.

He also said Norfolk had a high number of pupils on the C/D borderline, a critical boundary on the government’s current ‘gold standard’ of students gaining grade C or above in five or more GCSEs, including English and maths.

Gordon Boyd, the county council’s assistant director of children’s services, cited two factors: Norfolk schools making less use of qualifications that are equivalent to GCSEs but still count in league tables, and some schools not adapting to tightened GCSEs in science, maths and English.

He pointed out that students in the most recent league tables had completed most of their studies before the council’s improvement strategy A Good School for Every Norfolk Learner began last April, and that since then Ofsted had noted improvements in Norfolk secondary schools.

He said: “Let’s not allow confidence to wane that we have got a very good strategy that is proving to be very well-received by governors, headteachers, county councillors and is undoubtedly having the effect of bringing people together in school-to-school support.”

The work includes using expertise from the London Leadership Strategy, which helped transform education in the capital, and forming links with successful schools in Essex, Devon and Lambeth.

Dame Rachel de Souza, chief executive of the Inspiration Trust federation of seven Norfolk academies, described the overall county results as “very disappointing”, and called for speedy action, with more support from outside agencies.

She said she had met Denise Walker, who heads the council’s Norfolk to Good and Great programme for schools that need improvement, and added: “I think the work she is doing is good, but she is only one woman with an awful lot of schools. It’s headteachers that need to take responsibility and work together across the system. We need to look outside for support from Future Leaders, Teach First and the Inspiration Trust.”

She added: “It’s not an undoable job. We absolutely can do it, but it’s leadership, teaching and learning that need a forensic focus.”

Despite this week’s league table, Rob Anthony was optimistic that current work in Norfolk would lead to better results next year.

He said: “There are lots of things in place. The secondary heads group is doing an incredible amount of work linking schools together. We are grouped in families of schools and then split into triads. We are looking at sharing best practice and learning from each other. That was one of the things that really worked in the London Challenge.”

Ian Clayton, headteacher of Thorpe St Andrew School and a recognised leader of education, said there was “an awful lot of activity going on”.

He said this includes the first engagement with the National College of Teaching programme for many years, with 26 middle leaders receiving support with leadership and other skills. However, he warned there would be a lag time before the effect came through in league tables.

He said: “You can’t turn it around in a year. You are talking about a little bit of a quick fix with year 11 results, but it goes right back to year nine options. The Norfolk strategy is something that you won’t see results of for a year or two.”

He also warned against relying on headline league table figures alone.

So will we see better news for Norfolk schools this time next year? For Mr Boyd, of the council, “we jolly well should do”. He added: “It would be astonishing if we were suddenly at the national average, but we should see year-on-year improvement.”

What do you think? Email newsdesk@archant.co.uk

23 comments

  • ....."Popeye".....surely he was fictional whereas I am really Frodo.....look, I will put on my golden ring and I will disap

    Report this comment

    Rhombus

    Saturday, January 25, 2014

  • Quite right N....she had a spectacular falling out with Ormiston......wonder why???!!! Response please Mrs Truss, Ms Smith, Mr Wright......where r u all now that the lies about academies are being seen to be just that. I remember Mrs Truss on TV singing their virtues when of course she didn't really have a clue as this data proves....so where now?? Oh blame the LA, the last Government, the weather?.....anybody but your own failed expensive policy!!

    Report this comment

    Sportswagon

    Saturday, January 25, 2014

  • Popeye, Dame De Souza is no longer involved with the Ormiston chain, she now heads up a rival academy chain called the Inspiration Trust. From her comment in this article she is clearly touting for business to expand her own empire.

    Report this comment

    Row71

    Saturday, January 25, 2014

  • theanchovy. The reason there are still failing teachers is that they are not sacked. The scholls should try sacking a few and see what happens to the rest. Seeing as Castle is ultimately in charge of Education at the Kremlin, what does he say about all this, EDP?, or like a typical labourite, only chirps up when things are going well ?

    Report this comment

    "V"

    Friday, January 24, 2014

  • Too true Johnboy........and the silence from our previously academyOfsted yapping MPs is deafening!!!

    Report this comment

    Sportswagon

    Sunday, January 26, 2014

  • Blame the previous Tory led administration at County Hall, they siphoned money away from schools to pursue their own pet projects, sadly many of them are still in place. It's such a shame the academies don't appear to offer a realistic alternative.

    Report this comment

    Heading for Squalor

    Friday, January 24, 2014

  • Amazing, but forgive me why blame the LA nearly 50% of these high schools are now academies.....INDEPENDENT of the LA and the supposed miracle workers. This drop, the first time ever, coincides with Norfolk high schools converting to academy status over the last 3 years yet bar the 2 Ormiston academies most academies are doing badly unlike the brilliant Aylsham high which barely gets a mention. Gove and Nash have much to answer for in these results....stop messing with structures and support all schools.

    Report this comment

    Sportswagon

    Friday, January 24, 2014

  • In my part of the world {Kent} a dozen languages and three or four interpreters in a class are commonplace. It doesn`t take much working out what the problem is but as per usual the truth is swept under the carpet.

    Report this comment

    John Bridge

    Friday, January 24, 2014

  • Sorry, no intention of repeating myself ..

    Report this comment

    Patrick

    Friday, January 24, 2014

  • Sorry. "scholls" should read Schools :-(

    Report this comment

    "V"

    Friday, January 24, 2014

  • I am not sure if Dame DeSouza has any remit concerning the performance of secondary schools outside of the Ormiston orbit. Surely it is her companies interest that NCC schools keep on underperforming so that Ormiston schools remain comparitively successful and attract the best pupils. Perhaps she will encourage Denise Walker to maintain the 'all children are educationally equal' in Norfolk schools, and continue to put 34 of the schools resources into teaching the least able and least motivated kids in the schools.

    Report this comment

    Rhombus

    Saturday, January 25, 2014

  • Yes Mrs Truss how do you explain this? No good running out the usual Gove patter of how successful academies are when they are blatantly the same same as other schools but cost a great deal more.....value for money??? ......... no way but of course this isn't the issue is it.

    Report this comment

    Sportswagon

    Friday, January 24, 2014

  • Why are 'white ,working class pupils' & 'urban deprivation' reasons for poor educational achievement? I was at at school in the 1960's with the exact same circumstances , and left grammar school in 1973 with 10 'O' levels & 3 'A' levels , including maths & 2 sciences. Nothing to do with the standard of teaching then?

    Report this comment

    Tudor Bushe

    Friday, January 24, 2014

  • Look at the TEN Group's academies - City Academy and Wayland. Disastrous fall in standards. And they are now taking over the improving Attleborough and Fakenham High Schools. What will happen next year?!

    Report this comment

    Johnboy

    Saturday, January 25, 2014

  • I am not sure if Dame DeSouza has any remit concerning the performance of secondary schools outside of the Ormiston orbit. Surely it is her companies interest that NCC schools keep on underperforming so that Ormiston schools remain comparitively successful and attract the best pupils. Perhaps she will encourage Denise Walker to maintain the 'all children are educationally equal' in Norfolk schools, and continue to put 3 quarters of the schools resources into teaching the least able and least motivated kids in the schools.

    Report this comment

    Rhombus

    Saturday, January 25, 2014

  • Very true, smithrob. It simply isn't everyone else's fault, is it? Far too many excuses. Far too many do-gooders with fancy ideas - whatever are "Inspiration Trust" - "Future Teachers" - "Teach First" - "London Challenge" - "National College of Teaching" - loads of money tipped into new names, gimmicks, theory and all the hot air .. and who, if anyone, is getting on with the main task of teaching well? All that's needed is an excellent Head, good teachers, disciplined pupils, co-operative & supportive parents, effective assessment, viable examination systems, high standards of behaviour and learning .. and we could lead the world. And currently we don't have much of that at all ... so here we languish .. stop navel-gazing and get on with the job. Yes, it is a job, with excellence the aim .. not mediocrity.

    Report this comment

    Patrick

    Friday, January 24, 2014

  • Still no comment from Truss about failing academies. Egg on face?

    Report this comment

    guella

    Friday, January 24, 2014

  • Failing pupils are the result of failing teachers. There are no other reasons. However there are many reasons that there are failing teachers.

    Report this comment

    theanchovy

    Friday, January 24, 2014

  • These results are a slap in the face for Michael Gove and his failed academies programme. The only people who gain from his pet scheme are his friends who become Chief Execs of academy chains, and the solicitors who leap on the gravy train.

    Report this comment

    Johnboy

    Friday, January 24, 2014

  • Still no comment from Truss about failing academies. Egg on face?

    Report this comment

    guella

    Friday, January 24, 2014

  • Lets blame the Tories, LEA, Academies, Michael Gove, teachers, Ofsted - NO! Stop blaming everyone else and accept all these people and parents need to take responsibility about what has happened to schools, not just in Norfolk but across the country. The only people who matter are the children. Adults need to step up to the mark, social engineering and political ideology has caused chaos. What a mess.

    Report this comment

    smithrob

    Friday, January 24, 2014

  • Very true, smithrob. It simply isn't everyone else's fault, is it? Far too many excuses. Far too many do-gooders with fancy ideas - whatever are "Inspiration Trust" - "Future Teachers" - "Teach First" - "London Challenge" - "National College of Teaching" - loads of money tipped into new names, gimmicks, theory and all the hot air .. and who, if anyone, is getting on with the main task of teaching well? All that's needed is an excellent Head, good teachers, disciplined pupils, co-operative & supportive parents, effective assessment, viable examination systems, high standards of behaviour and learning .. and we could lead the world. And currently we don't have much of that at all ... so here we languish .. stop navel-gazing and get on with the job. Yes, it is a job, with excellence the aim .. not mediocrity.

    Report this comment

    Patrick

    Friday, January 24, 2014

  • Hang on a minute Dame DeSouza, surely not "speedy action" from the LA or Denise Walker since 50% of these schools, and the 3 worst performing, are all academies which are INDEPENDENT of the LA which you have repeatedly rubbished......talk about hypocrisy. Perhaps you should now run back to 'Dave' for support.

    Report this comment

    Sportswagon

    Saturday, January 25, 2014

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