Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

In My View

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

In My View

Article excerpt

Byline: By Judith Lloyd The Journal

The recently published national key stage 3 results which put Northumberland in the top third of LEA's were reported last week with barely an acknowledgement from county hall.

One presumes this is because they conflict with the "party line" on the need to change to a two-tier system to "dramatically improve standards" ( as claimed by the former director of education, Brian Edwards.

Northumberland's performance is improving year on year and faster than the national average; more than two thirds of key stage 3 teaching takes place in our middle schools and it was refreshing and heartening to hear the head of King Edward VI High, which this year topped the county table for KS3, pay fulsome tribute to her middle school head colleagues who prepare so much of the ground in year's Seven and Eight.

A couple of weeks ago I attended a rescheduled and scarcely publicised Area Committee meeting for Hexham which was meant to be the opportunity for the public to express its views to county councillors on the reorganisation proposals. It was a pity that there were so few of them present.

We were told again by a new temporary chief education officer, Jackie Strong, that Northumberland should be doing better and this was evident when we compared our performance with 10 "statistical neighbour" LEA's from other parts of the country which share similar socio-economic, demographic and geographical characteristics. In fact, what her graphs seemed to show was that we are performing very much in line with them. The 2004 KS3 results which have appeared since are added confirmation of the fact. We fall exactly in the middle of the group of statistical neighbours and there are less than two percentage points separating these 11 LEAs. As regards A-C grade GCSEs the 2004 results rank us 37th out of 149 LEA's and fourth amongst statistical neighbours and, if our worst performing high school could raise its game by just 4pc we would be 28th out of 149 and second in the statistical neighbour list.

As far as I am aware, all the "statistical" neighbours run two-tier systems, confirming the statement made in Parliament last summer by education minister Stephen Twigg to Alan Beith MP, that there is no appreciable difference in outcome between two and three-tier systems despite the superficially attractive argument that school "accountability" for a complete key stage raises standards. …

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