A group of education experts appointed to look at secondary education in South Gloucestershire have concluded that teaching needs to be improved across the district.
Although primary schools in South Gloucestershire are within the top quarter nationally in terms of performance, when it comes to secondary and post-16 education, they plummet to the bottom quarter.
The independent education commission praised South Gloucestershire Council for its “courageous leadership” by ordering the review, which took place over six months, and was presented to the council’s Children & Young People Committee today.
The committee endorsed the recommendations of the commission, made up of five experts including John Harris, vice-chair of the Board of Trustees for the National Foundation for Educational Research, and Dame Sue John, who has worked as a national leader of education and as project manager for some of London’s most challenging schools. It highlighted the need for urgent action to raise the unsatisfactory quality of teaching and learning in South Gloucestershire’s schools.
It was stressed that improvements to eradicate “poor performance” would not be achieved in the short-term but would involve investment over a three- to five-year period.
Commission chairman John Harris said: “There is a widening gap between educational attainment at Key Stages 4 and 5 in South Gloucestershire secondary schools in comparison with statistical neighbour local authorities and nationally; value added between Key Stages 2 and 4 is not good enough; the high level of surplus places in secondary schools is leading to inefficient use of resources, stretching schools’ capacity to offer an appropriate curriculum; sixth form provision under current arrangements is increasingly unsustainable; and support for employability and skills is underdeveloped.”
The committee heard that the commission felt the top priority for the council was to improve the quality of teaching and learning in South Gloucestershire.
Improving continuity and progression between primary and secondary schools through the development of a Year 5-8 ‘learning pathway’, focusing in particular on literacy and numeracy, was also suggested.
The commission’s report sets out 14 recommendations, including the creation of a district-wide Education Partnership of schools, the local authority, colleges, representatives of local employers and others to drive forward the necessary changes.
The committee accepted the commission’s findings and it is expected that the development funding for setting up a new South Gloucestershire Education Partnership to implement the recommendations of the commission will need an investment of £400,000 a year for three years.