IN the Free Press of February 2, Suffolk county councillor Graham Newman (children, schools and young people) says, on improving the performance of Sudbury and Cornard upper schools: “... we are right to pursue the Schools Organisation Review and change from a three-tier system to a countywide two-tier system.”
However, according to the 2009 OECD PISA (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development - Programme for International Student Assessment) rankings, the top two education systems, Shanghai and South Korea, and four out of the top six, all appear to be three-tier.
The two-tier system to which they’re converting places Britain 26th.
That a system serving other countries so well fails in Suffolk says more about the council’s inability to manage education than any flaw in the three-tier principle.
By removing the middle schools where, from age nine, children have specialist teachers in English, maths, science, IT, languages and music, and access to proper laboratories and workshops, they are removing the very part of the system in which my own daughter has made most progress.
The middle school is rated good by Ofsted but the upper school and some feeder primaries are only satisfactory or, in one case, poor.
How can spending longer in already struggling schools, rather than the better performing middle school, improve children’s education?
The council is spending over £120 million of our money closing middle schools and building classrooms on playgrounds and playing fields of already cramped schools.
Yet by failing to first understand the problem, they may make things worse, removing the most effective part of the system and leaving the problem areas untouched.