It is full council tomorrow where the big debate will be on a no-confidence motion from Labour, attacking the administration over its handling of education in the county.
We can expect the usual assault on the administration. We will be blamed for all that is wrong in Suffolk’s schools with no acknowledgement from the opposition that while many schools have excellent support staff, outstanding teachers, inspiring head teachers and superb governors – a significant number do not. They too must take some blame.
Labour are clearly playing politics with this issue . It is hard to take them seriously when they have made a grammatical howler in the wording of their motion with a glorious split infinitive calling on the Conservative administration ‘to radically restructure its political oversight of education.’
As anyone who reads my emails or blogs knows I am not averse to the odd typo or three but I reckon you have to be sure of your stance if you are trying to grab the moral high ground. Setting out to lecture people on raising standards in school by way of a solecism is not very impressive.
However, while I am on about school improvement there is an issue locally about which I am not at all happy: the decision to cap sparsity funding which I fear could have a detrimental impact on two of the primary schools in the Clare division: Hundon and Thurlow.
Under the sparsity funding formula, Hundon Primary School was allocated £44,666 but SCC capped the award by £37,130 so the school only receives £7,536.
Capping the award means these schools may have to give up their planned federation. My fear is that this will endanger the excellent work being undertaken by the schools’ joint head teacher, Vicky Hogg, and the staff and governors to turn Hundon Primary School around.
Mrs Hogg has a proven track record in school improvement having taken over Thurlow when it was school in trouble and transformed it into one that gained at ‘Good’ at its most recent Ofsted. She has inspired the staff and governors to strive to achieve even more.
It was because of Mrs Hogg’s enthusiasm and experience in raising school standards that she was approached last autumn to take on Hundon School. SCC had recognised it as a cause for concern.. She took over the headship in January and already has made progress.
Both sets of governors have seen benefits in the schools working closely together and therefore voted to start consultation for Federation on the 31st March.
This is now in jeopardy. Hundon’s budget is so tight that if the school gets the staffing level to support school improvement it will have an in-year deficit of approximately £20,000. The school will not be able to sustain this for longer than two years.
We talk a great deal about improving school standards and ‘Raising The Bar’ , and rightly so, but why are we putting the prospects of turning round Hundon school in jeopardy? Worse still, by denying Hundon its full allocation of sparsity funding – an allocation that recognises the challenges faced by small, rural schools – we are threatening the future not only of Hundon but also of Thurlow. I, of course, appreciate that funding is tight but I can see no sense in denying a school, which is beginning to make progress, the opportunity to improve, develop and prosper. Nor can I see any sense in starving the planned federation and endangering a school such as Thurlow which is well on its way to being outstanding.