Friday, 26 June 2015

Opinion: Schools In Reading

Whitley Park Primary School - Improving
READING has some great schools and, contrary to some impressions, the majority of the town’s children already attend good or outstanding teaching establishments. 

We also benefit from a real mixed economy of school types – community schools, voluntary aided church schools, schools which have converted to academies, as well as sponsor led academies and more recently the development of free schools.

It is also important to remember that Reading council has no direct control over any schools in the borough – these powers disappeared long ago when the local management of schools by heads and governors was introduced as part of the 1988 Education Reform Act.

Nevertheless, the council does still carry a range of statutory responsibilities for schools which include the strategic planning for the delivery of education services across the town, ensuring sufficient classrooms to meet demand, monitoring school attendance, supporting pupils with special education needs and delivering school improvement in academic achievement.

It is this last area which invariably is of interest to parents, particularly when armed with a report from the government’s assessment authority Ofsted about the school their daughter or son attends, or wants to attend. Many schools have some strengths and some areas which could be better, but in the end they are judged as being in one of four grades: outstanding, good, requires improvement or inadequate.

It was therefore with some concern and dismay the council received the letter from the regional director of Ofsted in February this year which declared that we did not provide sufficient challenge or support to schools to assist them in improving their standards.

With this in mind the council has recently launched a new strategy which has the target of ensuring that by 2018 every child in Reading will attend a school that is good or better.

Some have already said that such an ambition is unrealistic. Well as Michelangelo said “The greatest danger is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it”.

At the heart of the plan is that teachers, heads and governors share their experiences and good practice with colleagues from other schools. There is growing evidence of where collaboration takes place standards improve, such as that in the cluster of schools in south Reading. I was delighted to hear of the progress made at Whitley Park school which has moved in the last eighteen months from being judged as inadequate to now being a good school: congratulations to all concerned!

We must be impatient to secure these improvements and if in 2018 we have not achieved our goal or come close to it, then I will pass the baton on to another.


(This article first appeared as an Opinion column in the Reading Chronicle on 25/5/2015)

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