Pupils must never be let down again

The world of education in Leicester never seems to stay still. I was thinking just the other day about all the senior education chiefs who have come and gone during my near-four-year stint as Leicester Mercury education correspondent.

To say nothing of the head teachers who have fallen by the wayside. One constant of my time here is hearing the frustration among head teachers and teachers that the stress of the job is becoming too much.

So there was very real celebration in the education sector today. The Department for Children, Schools and Families announced that, after nearly two years, it was lifting its programme of intervention in Leicester City Council’s children’s services department.

It’s clear to me there have been some very real improvements. To be honest, the DCSF’s warning to Leicester could have come sooner. By June 2008 it was already beginning to turn the corner.

But since then there has been a real focus on raising results which shows what can be done.

Leicester has a long, long way to go. It has a lot of social problems far out of the control of  politicians and certainly schools. And maybe there shouldn’t be any real cause for celebration until all of its schools are as good as its best.

There is certainly a worry among some senior education people I’ve spoken to that any loss of focus – whether that’s because of political instability, lack of cash, or the loss of key leaders – could see Leicester back to square one, but that must now be unthinkable.

No private company worth its salt would have seen so many changes in key personel, so many half-finished initatives, so many non-local temporary and consultancy staff on expensive short-term contracts, so much money spent on projects which attracted funding despite no clear measure of success as I saw in the city’s education system when I first came here.

Not everything was bad. There were some great schools then too, but taken as a whole, those were dark days.

Much of that has been rectified and that’s why (that horrible word they use in education at the moment) outcomes have improved: better exam results, fewer failing schools, lower rates of teen pregnancy, less truancy. And there has been a growth in confidence that’s come with that.

There are still schools teetering on the brink of unacceptable standards but you do get the feeling that, rather than brush the problems under the carpet, which was being done in the past, education leaders are now more willing to take decisive action.

There’s a general election in the offing and perhaps that’s why the DCSF chose now to say that a Labour council has improved. It’s also recognition that Leicester City Council has – in planning to turn three schools into trusts – given the Government what it wanted, albeit watered down from its original desire to see the schools become completely independent of the local authority, as academies.

But there is far, far too much politics in education so let’s resist the temptation and put that to one side at the moment and concentrate on this: Over the past two years head teachers in Leicester and their staff have been put under more pressure than ever before, weak council officers have been replaced by tough, competent, motivated ones, and pupils have been through breakfast clubs, after-school tutoring and intensive holiday revision sessions – they probably didn’t know what hit them.

The pupils are the ones who will really benefit from this. There is no subsitute for going to a good school, which is led well, and which helps you get good qualifications. Too many in the past were let down and that’s disgraceful.

That’s why Leicester must never, ever go back to those dark days and must continue its relentless improvement.

About Ian

A journalist working in Brussels
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5 Responses to Pupils must never be let down again

  1. This is a hugely important issue to me, so thanks for posting this. As someone born and brought up in Leicester and gone though the Leicester schools up to College level and with my own kids now in Leicester Primary Schools, a high quality education is vital to the future success of Leicester. I also think that the current Leicestershire system of 11-14 schools needs to change urgently. Having to move school when you are just about to embark on your GCSEs must be disruptive? You are right that we all need to keep pushing for improvements and I for one I’m not satisfied with education in Leicester yet but it’s good to see there is real progress.

  2. Sue says:

    When leicester schools have DYSLEXIA friendly Quality mark they will be good schools but while they do not have this status there will still be the political football effect. This is still obviously a taboo subject so no doubt you will delete this post for the offensive words ‘DYSLEXIA FRIENDLY’

  3. Sue says:

    Glad you don’t delete my comments but WHEN are you going to ask councillors Ould and Dempster about the commitment for Leicester and Leicestershire to gain Dyslexia friendly quality status? How many SCITT (school centred initial teacher training) schools are committed to gaining dyslexia friendly quality status? Are you going to let parents in the county know about the Dyslexia Drop ins that special needs teaching service are holding at local libraries? These events are for parents, carers and families affected by dyslexia and will be from 10am to noon at the following libraries: Hinckley Sat 6th March, Loughborough Sat 13th March and Wigston Sat 27th March. In addition there is an informal group meeting every second wednesday of the month at Wigston library 4pm to 5pm All ages welcome to attend. next meeting 10th March

  4. Sue says:

    Ian, have you seen the comments on the story about leicester city schools not going to be taken over by the government? If you have it will be very obvious that ALL pupils in the city will be let down yet again. Children with learning styles similar to the teaching style will suffer because they will be disrupted by the children with different learning styles. Children with different learning styles will suffer because they are NOT BEING TAUGHT. Parents and students really should seriously consider suing both authority and schools involved. The legislation is already there in the disability discrimination act.

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