Gove writes to city MPs
As you may well be aware, over half term Michael Gove wrote to the three city MPs calling on them to assist in persuading schools to become academies. This featured in an article in The Guardian on 24th October. Gove continues his rhetoric about us sticking to a system which is failing children.
In a response to Michael Gove, city mayor Peter Soulsby points out that the education secretary's comments are misleading and do a disservice to the vast majority of schools that are working very successfully to overcome barriers to achievement. Children enter schools in Leicester well below national averages, but leave primary school having achieved progress rates that are above national and East Midlands averages.
What he was actually attacking were local authorities, such as Leicester, in which schools have not opted to convert to academy status. Headteachers in Leicester have not swallowed the government propaganda and have continued to work collaboratively to improve the education of all children in the city.
As a response to Michael Gove's attack on our city, NUT Assistant Secretary Peter Flack wrote a 'first person column' which was printed in The Leicester Mercury on 31st October. This takes the form of an open letter to Michael Gove, printed below:
City's schools do not want to be academies
Dear Mr Gove,
As far as I know you have never visited a school in Leicester. Yet you claim, with reference to national outcomes, that "the system is failing successive cohorts of children in Leicester." Really? In fact, Leicester schools have made enormous progress over the past 5 years.
We have only three primary schools below the primary benchmark for learning out of 80. How does that compare with Academy rich Nottingham or Birmingham? Provisional test results from this summer showed 90% of children in the city made the expected level of progress at English compared with only 89 per cent nationally. In maths, 87 per cent of youngsters in Leicester made the expected level of progress, on a par with those nationally.
Given that Leicester has significantly higher levels of social deprivation than most parts of the country, especially the affluent south east, that is a real achievement. It deserves praise. So does the commitment of the LA and schools to developing literacy. The 'Whatever it Takes' pledge to get every child in the city reading, which has transformed children's attitudes to reading and their confidence as readers, is a model you should be copying, not denigrating.
If you look at progress made by children throughout their school careers, you will see that Leicester is one of the better performing authorities in the country. In 2009, four of our secondary schools were part of 'National Challenge', which threatened compulsory academy conversion if schools failed to reach the Government benchmark of 30% of pupils achieving five GCSE grades to A to C including maths and English. None failed.
This year, all our community comprehensives met the government's revised benchmark of 40%. Surely that also deserves congratulations, not criticism. The only secondary school not to achieve that benchmark was our only secondary academy. Truth hurts.
Stripped of platitudes, your measure of failure relates not to children's progress in learning, which we do well, but to the number of academy schools in the city. That suggests an agenda focused not on education but on privatisation.
You lament that, "No secondary school in Leicester has applied to convert", demonstrating a pitiful lack of interest in why that is. Such decisions rest with schools not the council. The majority of our secondary schools are good or outstanding. They are free to convert to academy status, so why don't they?
Perhaps they don't want to. Perhaps they recognise the value of the partnership we operate across Leicester and the shared responsibility we take for the education of all children.