Action plan needed to raise standards in Yorkshire schools

Picture: Chris Radburn/PA WirePicture: Chris Radburn/PA Wire
Picture: Chris Radburn/PA Wire
AN ACTION plan will be produced this summer to help raise attainment in Yorkshire schools which lag behind the rest of the country.

An education summit was told yesterday that making Yorkshire a world leader in education should be part of councils’ plans for economic growth.

The event was organised by the 15 local education authorities across Yorkshire and the Humber. Delegates were told the region has the country’s lowest level of pupils achieving five good GCSEs, including English and maths, the lowest scores for seven-year-old pupils in reading, writing and maths and the highest level of absence and persistent absence in schools.

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The summit in Leeds Town Hall was described as a call to action. Leeds City Council’s deputy director of children’s services, Paul Brennan, said the region was in a position of strength to be able to improve, adding: “There are world class schools in Yorkshire... 76 per cent are rated as good or outstanding.”

He said the plan would focus on allowing school to school support to take place and to share “best practice” around the county, and claimed there also needed to be collaboration across council areas. He highlighted the success of the London Challenge which had helped raise standards in the capital’s schools.

Last year a pathfinder initiative was set up in Yorkshire which saw around 30 schools put together in working groups. Schools were chosen who were judged to be requiring improvement by Ofsted but who had also been identified as having the potential to improve quickly. They were split into four hubs - primaries, South Yorkshire secondaries, West Yorkshire secondaries and also secondary schools from North Yorkshire, East Riding and North Lincolnshire.

The schools also received outside help from experts including Prof Mel Ainscow and Margaret Woodhouse who played a leading role in the Greater Manchester challenge schools improvement programme.

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At the summit yesterday headteachers from two schools involved told how the scheme had helped them improve to receive a good rating from Ofsted. Steve Dixon and Delia Martin, co-head teachers of Benton Park School in Leeds, said it had been useful to work and visit other schools which were on a similar journey.

Karen Tatham, headteacher at Burton Green Primary, in York, said Prof Ainscow and Mrs Woodhouse’s input had been inspirational. Heads from both schools said the involvement in the pathfinder scheme had helped them to achieve a good rating in their latest Ofsted inspection. The event was attended by representatives from Yorkshire’s 15 education authorities, head teachers and people from higher education, arts and business sectors.

Prof Margaret House, the vice chancellor of Leeds Trinity University, told delegates the system was potentially letting young people down because there was not enough collaboration between schools and higher education.

Martin Green, the chief executive of Hull City of Culture 2017’s company urged schools to get involved in the event. Mr Green, who was master of ceremonies at the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, said his first decisions after taking on the job was to ensure the team appointed a director of education, skills and legacy.

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Caroline Rowley, the regional director for the Association of Colleges, called on Local Enterprise Partnerships to create four regional career hubs across Yorkshire to provide young people with advice.