Many targets on education met

STEVE DOWNES Norfolk has met a host of rigorous targets to improve education for children in the county - even though a "contract" with the government has been abandoned.

STEVE DOWNES

Norfolk has met a host of rigorous targets to improve education for children in the county - even though a "contract" with the government has been abandoned.

Three years ago, education chiefs pioneered a ground-breaking agreement with the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) to trigger a leap forward in achievement and conditions at Norfolk's 453 schools.

The deal - known as a compact - included date-specific targets to reduce the number of mobile classrooms, raise pupil performance at all levels and give all schools broadband internet connection.

It also included a number of promises from the DfES about how it would improve its support to Norfolk.

At the time, it was hailed for making the sometimes impenetrable government department "more flexible" and for improving its internal work.

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But the compact was kicked into touch when the county's education department was merged with children's social services to form the new children's services department.

However, last night it was revealed that most of the old targets had either been met or were on target to be overhauled by the deadlines that were set.

They include:

The number of mobile classrooms to be reduced from 15pc to 10pc of teaching spaces by September 2007.(If schemes including the Norwich reorganisation and Norfolk schools project are completed as planned, Norfolk will have achieved 8pc by the end of 2007).

Achieve a year-on-year improvement in the proportion of 16 and 17-year-olds in full and part-time education. (In 2003 the figure was 70pc, in 2004 it was 74pc and in 2005 it reached 76pc).

Ensure all schools have broadband internet connection by 2006. (Currently more than 400 do, with the remaining 40 installations scheduled for this year).

Ensure all high schools achieve at least 25pc of pupils getting five or more A*-C grades at GCSE. (Last year, three schools fell short but officials predict the target will be met by next year).

Ensure all pupils can attend the local school of their choice by September 2007. (All children are accommodated when an application is made on time, while a new co-ordinated admissions system was introduced one year ahead of legal obligation).

Despite the success, two of the targets are proving more difficult to meet.

Norfolk agreed to raise pupil performance at all key stages to at least the national average by September 2007.

But the county is still lagging slightly behind at age 11, and is well behind the national average for the percentage of pupils gaining five or more A*-Cs at GCSE.

It also agreed to ensure that all secondary schools had achieved specialist status by the end of 2004/5. But just 81pc currently have the status, with the others at various stages of application.

Fred Corbett, deputy director of children's services at Norfolk County Council, said things had changed because of the departmental revamp, but the targets were still "central" to what the council wanted to achieve.

He said: "We are working closely with schools and the DfES to improve the quality of education in Norfolk.

"Overall, we are heading in the right direction but we are certainly not complacent."