FENLAND: New report shows the challenges still facing our schools
By JOHN ELWORTHY NEW figures show five to seven year-olds in Fenland lag behind the rest of the county in the five major disciplines of maths, science, writing, reading and speaking. And, with some notable exceptions, the trend continues right through to
By JOHN ELWORTHY
NEW figures show five to seven year-olds in Fenland lag behind the rest of the county in the five major disciplines of maths, science, writing, reading and speaking.
And, with some notable exceptions, the trend continues right through to the age groups to when pupils take their GSCEs at 16.
The figures are contained in a report prepared by Adrian Loades, director of planning and development in the office of children and young people at Cambridgeshire County Council.
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He presented his findings yesterday to Fenland District Council Overview and Scrutiny Committee which was considering attainment and achievement in Fenland.
The committee was being asked to consider ways in which he could support improvements in educational attainment in fenland.
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Mr Loades said the average results for the county as a whole are above the national average for all key indicators at ages 5, 7, 11, 14 and 16.
However he pointed out the average results for Fenland "are below the county average for all key indicators at each phase of education," he said. "This includes results which show the overall attainment of pupils and also the progress made by pupils."
But Mr Loades was keen to emphasise that within these overall averages "there are some individual primary and secondary schools which are performing well."
Of 993 pupils in Fenland at foundation stage (aged 5) last year, in all areas of assessment pupils scored below the county average. The figures are split between boys and girls and in nearly every category - ranging from social and emotional development through to calculating and reading and writing- better scores were achieved for girls than boys, in line with national trends.
In only one area - summarised as "knowledge and understanding of the world" -did five year old boys score marginally better than girls.
Poor writing skills for boys was particularly pronounced among the 5-7 year age group, but the ground shifted among 7-11 year olds where boys scored better in maths and science, both subjects putting boys within reach of the county average.
Of the best performing schools for 11-14 year olds, three of the four main schools dipped below the county average- Thomas Clarkson Community College significantly so- but there was real success in Whittlesey where Sir Harry Smith Community College beats the county average.
The Whittlesey school is easily Fenland's star turn and its successes with 14-16 year olds are most notable in those achieving five or more GCSEs at A* -C. Indicators used by the county council show the county average to be 377.4, with Sir Harry Smith romping home with a score of 386.8.
To illustrate the comparisons with other Fenland schools, Cromwell Community College at Chatteris scored 338.3 last year, Neale Wade Community College, March, scored 340.7 and Thomas Clarkson Community College- in the first phase of its turn around- had a mark of 261.2
Mr Loades said there were many factors affecting performance in Fenland, and the main reasons for any school falling below acceptable standards are:
n Ineffective leadership
n Weak governance
n Poor standards of teaching, resulting in poor achievement
n Low attendance and or persistent absence
n Challenging socio economic circumstance
"In some schools in Fenland there are specific factor which contribute to these issues," said Mr Loades. "For example, difficulties in recruitment, low aspirations within the community, and aspects of community cohesion."
He added: "Most Fenland schools are working hard to improve the outcomes for pupils and in some schools standards are improving more quickly than elsewhere"
Final results for 2007 indicates that initiatives to raise achievement in specific settings and schools in Fenland "indicated improvements.