Education in Bucks praised as council pledges to be ‘Champion of the Child’

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Education standards across Buckinghamshire were praised last week as county councillors were given an in-depth report on the performance of schools in the area.

The Education Standards Report was placed before the council’s cabinet and said that:

> The overall percentage of pupils attending good or outstanding schools in the county has improved to 83 per cent – it was 74 per cent in 2011, and has risen by a percentage on last year. This is broadly in line with national figures;

> At the time of the report being published, there were only three schools in the whole of Buckinghamshire judged ‘inadequate’. This represents 1.3% of all schools in the county – compared to a national average of 2%. The figure was 10 in 2013 and six in 2015;

> The number of primary schools which are good or outstanding is 91 per cent – which makes Buckinghamshire the best performing authority in the South East. The average figure for England is 85 per cent. He called this ‘a fantastic achievement’;

> 100 per cent of nursery schools, pupil referral units and special schools are judged to be good or outstanding;

> In March, the figure for secondary schools which were good or outstanding was 67 per cent. The percentage is higher nationally but there has been an improvement in the non-selective schools here last year from 48% to 52%. It currently stands at 56%.

Cllr Zahir Mohammed, cabinet member for education and skills, highlighted several other key findings from the report, which covered results for the period 2014-2015.

He said the council’s focus continues to be to improve the percentage of pupils attending good or outstanding schools but he stressed the attainment gap for early years has improved.

He said a lot of effort was being put into narrowing the gap between disadvantaged groups and other pupils with the gap for children achieving 5+A*-C including English and mathematics narrowing by 3% in Buckinghamshire, whereas nationally it had widened.

He said: “Overall it is an excellent report and an excellent set of results. The Standards Report shows an improving picture with an increasing number of children attending Good or Outstanding schools in Buckinghamshire, and fewer attending Inadequate schools. This is an improving picture compared to both last year and compared with schools nationally, and it means that more children now have better chances academically.

“Work is and has been ongoing to support schools, such as projects supported with the Buckinghamshire Learning Trust and schools improving their Ofsted category, so that all children can have better opportunities to reach their potential.”

He thanked school leaders, teachers, the Buckinghamshire Learning Trust and council officers for their effort in achieving these results and added: “Obviously challenges remain in improving some of our schools, particularly here in Aylesbury and we will continue to work with our partners.”

Council leader Martin Tett said: “This is a first-class report. Congratulations to everybody who has been responsible behind the scenes for producing it. It’s a wealth of information.”

Cllr Tett then asked how the council deals with academies in the area now the Government insists local authorities are not responsible for their performance. He asked if there was a process to flag any concerns to the Regional Schools Commissioner.

He stressed the council should be ‘Champion of the Child’, irrespective of whether they go to a local authority school or academy.

Officials reassured him that they work closely and proactively with the Regional Schools Commissioner, who has the accountability for the performance of academies, with the aim of intervening if any schools should slip.

This takes the form of regular termly meetings where information is shared regarding schools.

“We take the view that the pupils of Buckinghamshire are Buckinghamshire pupils regardless of the type of school that they are educated in,” said Atifa Sayani, the council’s education champion. “It is important that we look after their education, their care and their welfare.”