Suffolk County Council have ridiculed suggestions that recent figures showing poor performance in primary schools are down to to the four new Free Schools that have opened in the county; suggestions made by Ipswich Labour councillor Alasdair Ross last week.
Suffolk County Council Education Porfolio Holder, Graham Newman, told Ipswich Spy that “as none of Suffolk’s four free schools serve the primary age group, and three of them only opened in September, I have no idea how Cllr Ross thinks they can be affecting the results of Key Stage 2 tests taken much earlier in the year. Maybe the old socialist dogma – that only local authorities can (and must) run schools – has clouded his assessment of the situation.”
He went on to add “What we have seen since these free schools have been set up – all serving the 11-16 age group – is the local authority and academy schools nearby rising to the challenge, and in some instances, outperforming their previous best results. Just four years ago we had eight of Suffolk’s forty secondary schools where young people had a less than one-in-three chance of leaving statutory education with five decent GCSEs including Maths & English. No one can doubt we can, and must, do better – as in the Mossbourne Academy in Hackney, where four out of five young people achieve that measure. I believe that Suffolk’s proportion will be seen to have improved when the Department for Education publishes individual schools’ GCSE results within the next few weeks.
“The great irony about Cllr Ross’ statement is that it was a Labour Government which first gave us academy schools during the last decade, which like Free Schools are run independently of local authorities. Is he proposing that Ed Miliband’s Labour party would ‘re-nationalise’ them all, in the unlikely event it is ever trusted to run this country again?”
Cllr Ross had suggested that one of the reasons Suffolk’s Primary Schools had come joint third bottom in national league tables was that free schools were taking resources away from the county council run schools.
Meanwhile Tory MP Ben Gummer was clear that the responsibility for the poor results lay at the door of the County Council, which he said had been running schools badly for a long time. In an interview with BBC presenter Mark Murphy, he told listeners:
“When you say that Suffolk is third from the bottom, there’s a reason for that, it’s because they have been poorly run by the local authority for a long time, we’ve got to be blunt about it. That means improving our schools. There are some fantastic schools in Ipswich which are really driving the way. I think you will begin to see Ipswich at the head of pulling this county out of the educational doldrums, it is the biggest consumer of my time because I am passionate about getting schools sorted.”