Education levels are 'not at the level we want them to be' in Northamptonshire says cabinet member

Councillor Fiona Baker became cabinet member for Children, Families and Education in January
Councillor Fiona Baker became cabinet member for Children, Families and Education in January

Education levels in Northamptonshire are ‘not at the level we want them to be’, according to the cabinet member for schools on the county council.

Councillor Fiona Baker made the admission today (March 21) as the council supported a motion from the opposing Labour party calling on the authority to do what it could to raise standards.

According to the council’s latest performance report, only 64 per cent of secondary schools are graded as good or outstanding by Ofsted. The remaining 36 per cent are ranked by school inspectors as requires improvement or inadequate. This compares to 82 per cent of Northamptonshire primaries being graded as good or better.

The motion, from Councillor Julie Brookfield, called on the council to make education a priority, and to ‘intervene to ensure a trust acts more swiftly’ when it identifies that an academy is at risk of underachieving.

Councillor Brookfield said: “I’m concerned that there is a widening gap in performance, as judged by Ofsted assessment, in Northamptonshire secondary schools and academies.

“The council recognises that, while there are exceptions, too many of our secondary schools and academies are inadequate or require improvement and that there should be a concerted effort to improve the quality of educational provision for all children and young people in Northamptonshire.

“While the council has limited influence over academies, there remains a duty to ensure pupils make good and sustainable progress in their education.”

Cabinet member Councillor Baker indicated that the ruling Conservative group would be supporting the motion. She said: “We are fully aware that education levels are not at the level we would wish them to be. In the last 16 months, we've held regular conversations with school ministers.

“Some academies are not performing well, but Key Stage 4 key performance measures are improving. There is ongoing work to narrow this gap, and we do fully support this motion."

Liberal Democrat leader Chris Stanbra added: "Clearly there's an issue with the way the school system is increasingly out of the control of this county council. We should take a more active role in ensuring that education standards in the county rise."

The agreed motion also called on the authority to write to the regional schools commissioner, Martin Post, to request his intervention as a matter of urgency whenever a school requires improvement or is inadequate.

Conservative councillor Dr Andy Mercer called for an ‘abolition’ of the academies system during his speech, saying: "I support the motion and love the sentiments behind it. Accountability comes through the Secretary of State for these academies, not parents or this council. I can't vote the Secretary of State out if I don’t think they are doing a good enough job on that front.”

Deputy leader Cllr Cecile Irving-Swift was standing in for council leader Matt Golby, who was in London discussing the local government reorganisation with government ministers.

She added: “We are supporting this motion as we are already doing a lot of what it says.”