Sunday, 18 September 2011

Surrey Schools are not coasting!

The Prime Minister recently delivered a speech in Norwich on Education on Friday 9th September.  The full text can be found below.

The speech was picked up by a number of papers included the London Evening Standard 

The prime minister accused some leafy suburbs schools of coasting and mentioned Surrey and Oxfordshire.

This got many head teachers, teachers and school governors in Surrey hoping mad.

The Conservative county councillor and cabinet member for Schools and Children, Peter Martin  wrote a strongly worded letter to David Cameron complaining that his facts about Surrey schools were plain wrong. I have reproduced  that letter below.

Dear Prime Minister

I was disappointed and concerned to hear your view of Surrey’s schools as expressed in your speech in Norwich last Friday.   Surrey’s schools are among the best in the country and I cannot accept your charge that they are coasting or flat-lining.  Surrey is one of the largest authorities in the country with 53 secondary and over 300 primary schools.  Ofsted rates nearly three quarters of our schools as good or outstanding – way above the national average.

Over the last five years the percentage of our students gaining 5 GCSEs at A*-C including English and Maths has risen from 49% to 62%.   Surrey’s performance is seven points above the national average and five points above the average in London.   That puts Surrey 19th in the league table of some 150 local authorities.   Four of our schools have risen by more than 20% over the last 2 years and five rose by 10% this year alone.  Nearly a quarter of our schools exceed 75%.

You mentioned in your speech the need for greater focus on the core subjects that comprise the new English Baccalaureate.   I am pleased to say that 22% of all Surrey students achieved that new benchmark measurement last year, with our top performing school registering 64%.  I note that Walworth and Burlington Danes Schools, to which you referred in your speech, registered 2% and 4% respectively.   We have strength in depth.

Surrey offers a curriculum which is broad and balanced allowing a full range of opportunity both academic and vocational.   Our schools are also inclusive as evidenced by a very low exclusion rate.

School improvement is a high priority in Surrey.  We have five of the newly announced Teaching Schools in Surrey and among our headteacher community we have 30 Local Leaders of Education and 5 National Leaders of Education engaged in raising standards with schools other than their own. 

We are intensely proud of our track record in education, though in no way complacent.   Our greatest challenge at present is an increased demand for school places arising from both a 20% increase in the birth rate and because people keep moving in to Surrey to gain access to our outstanding schools.   We have therefore embarked on the biggest school building programme in the history of the county.
I would be delighted to welcome you to the county to come and see for yourself the quality and success of our schools.

Yours sincerely

Peter Martin
Cabinet Member for Children and Learning

The full text of the letter can also be found on Surrey's Website

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