Tuesday, 17 September 2013

OFSTED Letter highlights real change needed

Medway Focused Inspection Letter v8 FINAL Embargoed 050913 by Tristan Osborne

What with the state of the NHS locally, where a botched Tory privatisation has left real and lasting damage to local services, it could be easy to forget that it isn’t just health where residents are being let down.

Medway schools have been mis-managed by the Conservative Party for more than a decade. A period that has seen a marked deterioration in outcomes for many pupils across our towns; many of which could have been ameliorated if it were not for all the changes in officers, personnel and dithering Council portfolio holders.

From being bottom of Key Stage 2; a botched 11+ Medway test fiasco;  shambolic and forced re-organisation of schools; to expensive errors over photocopier contracts. We have had schools closed on the basis of statistics when less than three years later another is needed. We have had teams cut in the Council at the exact time improvements needed to be embedded. The list goes on and on.

Medway as a conurbation produces proportionately fewer number of University graduates that puts us at a competitive disadvantage when trying to attract inward investment. Getting education right is therefore an economic priority for future years and one we cant get wrong.

The OFSTED report is damning but it seems lessons are not being learnt. Instead of accepting the recommendations within the report we had a press statement from the Council that barely acknowledged any of the negatives; rather than an acceptance we had an aggressive rebuttal.  The Tory record of buck passing on education continues.

Labour invested in education locally; from the new Mid Kent College campus in Gillingham to capital spends to modernise our Academies, some of which are doing well. There is a legacy in many schools of new infrastructure that makes it a real pity that the Tory-led Local Education Authority has dropped the ball.

Tory Councillors’ distancing themselves by stating schools ‘stand alone’ is just the latest out-of-turn comment which leaves parents with no confidence that the Tory Council has a grip.

Whilst Academies are independent of direct LEA control the fact is the Council are responsible for the 70,000 or so pupils that attend all Medway schools. They also have a responsibility – like other LEA’s across the country – of setting political leadership, direction and offering help. Schools do not and should never ‘stand alone.‘  An inappropriate phrase whose sentiment is very much understood by thousands of parents across Medway.

The Council should acknowledge the OFSTED report. When it comes to a child’s education a decade of poor performance is not acceptable; and that record will be on the ballot paper in 2015.

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