Suffolk schools in council spat
A row has broken out between Suffolk county council and local primary school headteachers after every school was sent a letter by the council rating them as ‘red’, ‘amber’, or ‘green’.
Each of the primary schools’ chair of governors and headteacher received the ratings on the September 26 – according to the Suffolk Primary Headteachers’ Association (SPHA) written reply to the council seen by Schools Week.
The SPHA letter describes the council’s communication as demonstrating a “continued and fundamental lack of understanding about what is required to improve schools in Suffolk.”
It adds: “School leaders are already keenly aware of their schools’ performance, given their Ofsted ratings and HMI inspections.
“Your rating system, without an offer of support, is a blunt instrument that adds no value whatsoever. It merely serves to demoralise those schools that are working hard on school improvement.”
The letters come after Ofsted criticised Suffolk County Council’s support for underperforming schools.
In an Ofsted report published this January reviewing the council’s education services, HMI James McNeillie said: “Officers have not intervened quickly enough in those schools that are declining.
“They have been equally tardy in addressing ineffective leadership in maintained schools.”
The SPHA also objected to the “threat of using the Local Authority’s statutory powers to replace Governing Bodies with Interim Executive Boards”– a move local authority’s use to improve under-performing schools.
The letter criticised Suffolk County Council’s request for asking schools in receipt of ‘Warning Letters’ to provide a recovery plan.
“You have asked the schools in receipt of Warning Letters to provide you with, “a recovery plan” within fifteen days of receipt of the letter.
“We have no confidence in the Local Authority’s ability to make an informed judgement about the standard of these plans, given your lack of knowledge about these schools.”
Responding to the criticism from the SPHA a council spokesperson told Schools Week: “Suffolk County Council is committed to increasing the pace of improvement in schools. Standards are improving but they are not rising quickly enough.
“Following analysis of data from the Department for Education and schools themselves we have identified schools where the available evidence tells us we need to take action. The council will use all the tools at its disposal to improve outcomes for children.”
Libby Brown, chair of SPHA and head at Kyson Primary School in Woodbridge, declined to comment.