Leeds: Volunteer army of teachers could help narrow the gap

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EDUCATION bosses in Leeds are hoping to galvanise a volunteer army of support teachers to help raise youngsters’ performance in English and Maths.

An action plan to improve standards in the two core subjects is already having some success, an internal council watchdog has been told, but the city could do better.

And among the new ideas being mooted is engaging more with, and offering support to, scores of volunteer-run supplementary schools operating in some of the city’s inner city areas.

A council education watchdog has recently issued a nine-point list of recommendations to help raise the attainment of Leeds children in Maths and English. It comes after an 18-month inquiry, sparked by the fact that “it was evident there are a number of barriers preventing a significant number of children and young people in Leeds from achieving mathematics and English qualifications”, according to a key report.

A recent meeting of the council’s Children and Families Scrutiny Board - which led the inquiry - heard that many inner city ‘after-school’ supplementary classes are providing valuable help to those who can’t afford private tuition.

Coun Jane Dowson, the council’s deputy executive member for children’s services, told the panel that some supplementary schools - often operating from the traditionally underachieving inner city areas and from within Asian communities - already offer English, Maths and Science help as well as religious and cultural classes, but added: “We could do more to galvanise the supplementary schools.”

The panel was told that there were already examples of after-school tuition clubs in Little London who are “working together to target pupils and really focus on English and Maths”.

It was suggested that additional training could be offered to volunteers to help them focus on English and Maths.

“We are really hopeful this will develop,” the panel was told.

A report presented to the panel said: “Significant, tough and complex challenges remain. Much greater and faster progress in English and Mathematics is one of these challenges.
“Higher standards of literacy and numeracy are one of the keys to narrowing the achievement gaps that remain in Leeds across all key stages.”

The report says the attainment gaps particularly affect boys, those with special educational needs, some black and ethnic minority groups, those eligible for free school meals and those living in deprived areas of the city.

Coun Judith Blake.

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