West Norfolk teachers told to raise their game

CAPTION; Photos of the College of West Anglia Principal David Pomfret, outside the college building

CAPTION; Photos of the College of West Anglia Principal David Pomfret, outside the college building in King's Lynn.PHOTO; Matthew UsherCOPY; Chris HillFOR; EDP NEWSCOPYRIGHT; EDP pics © 2008TEL; (01603) 772434 - Credit: Matthew Usher

Teachers have been told to raise their game to ensure there are no failing schools in west Norfolk by next year.

Leaders of the West Norfolk Partnership of schools, designed to raise pupils' attainment across the borough, are determined to narrow the gap with the national average at GCSE. They admitted achievement in the area was 'not where we want to be' – but said recent work had led to 'dramatic improvement'.

They highlighted a 7pc rise in the number of students achieving five A* to C grades, including English and maths, at GCSE as proof that their actions in sharing school data and best practice were making a difference. That represents the fastest improvement anywhere in Norfolk but David Pomfret, (pictured) principal of the College of West Anglia, which is a member of the partnership, said: 'Whilst we've got a significant one-year change, we recognise that still leaves us 6pc behind the national average.'

To ensure schools reached their target of achieving the national average by 2014, he said department heads and school leaders would be required to take 'tough and decisive action' to improve teaching and raise standards in the classroom.

That would involve challenging underperforming staff, he said, and ensuring teachers were prepared to ask colleagues across west Norfolk for advice on best practice.

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Asked whether that would mean poor performing teachers potentially getting the sack, he replied: 'Ultimately, yes.'

Earlier Mr Pomfret said: 'Quite often, underperforming students are as a result of underperforming staff.'

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Since it was formed last year the partnership, made up of west Norfolk schools which have agreed to develop a joint strategy to raise attainment across the borough, has observed teachers and students in lessons and looked at school structures to examine where improvements could be made.

So far data from the schools has shown an 'underperformance at every one of the assessment levels', as pupils were found to be falling behind at primary school level or, if they were from deprived areas, starting behind the expected ability level.

Nick Daubney, leader of West Norfolk Borough Council and chairman of the partnership, added: 'There was a feeling in this council that we were getting messages from business that all was not as it should be in terms of education.'

As a result the partnership introduced a literacy project, to drive up reading and writing standards, and gave governors greater support so they could ask hard questions of teachers in meetings to pressure them into making changes to raise performance.

Using an annual budget of £400,000, it is now looking at developing a 'middle leaders programme' to support heads of department and a 'teachers' network' in key subject areas, so staff can get advice on how to improve their lessons.

Schools are also sharing data on pupil attainment across the district to give them more information about what is working and where changes can be made.

Mike Douglass, headteacher at the King Edward VII School in King's Lynn and chairman of the schools' operational group, said: 'We want to raise the game of our teachers.

'It is not just about visits and leadership development. One of the key areas is work around the curriculum in terms of what we are teaching and how we are teaching it.

'This partnership is instrumental in giving us that opportunity.'

Mr Daubney added: 'We think we've found the right road.'

Last month, a blitz of school inspections across Norfolk led Ofsted to conclude that too many schools were missing the grade and that Norfolk County Council was not doing enough to challenge them.

Of the schools that were inspected in west Norfolk, St Clement's High School in Terrington St Clement was judged as 'inadequate', after the proportion of students gaining five or more GCSEs at grade C or above, including English and maths, fell for three years in a row.

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