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An investigation by the RSA into Suffolk’s ‘stuck’ underperforming schools has called on the borough to encourage greater collaboration, stronger leadership and introduce radical new partnerships in order to turn things around.

Its report No School An Island concluded that head teachers, college principals and other local leaders need to move from focusing overwhelmingly on their particular school or community, to leading and championing action across the whole county.

View the No School An Island: Suffolk education inquiry report 

The report called for a new ‘Suffolk Partnership for Excellence in Learning’ (SPEL) to be established between schools and the local authority by April 2014. The SPEL would be responsible for reviewing education strategy, driving system-wide improvement and creating a culture of powerful collaboration.

Published as part of the Raising the Bar inquiry, the wide ranging report recommended that:

  • The local authority forms a long-term strategic in order to broaden horizons across the county, stimulate new thinking and show that significant change is both necessary and possible.

  • A ‘future leadership exchange programme’ should be established between Suffolk and London through which outstanding mid-career teachers can expand their experience.

  • Schools with a similar pupil profile in Suffolk, London and neighbouring counties should be encouraged to work together in ‘families’, to focus on improving learning through critical feedback and peer review.   

  • Isolated small rural schools of less than 100 pupils enter a federation of schools to establish new relationships, maximise resources and achieve cost savings.

  • Every school establishes a parents’ council, with representatives from the local community in order to enhance the school’s openness and accountability and ensure that parents’ voice is heard.

  • School partnerships explore options to pool a percentage of their pupil premium to design joint approaches to narrowing the achievement gap.

  • That outstanding teaching be rewarded and celebrated through new Suffolk Excellence in Teaching Awards and the encouragement of a new ‘Suffolk Teacher’ identity.

  • Suffolk schools integrate work-related learning activities within their core curriculum and establish the Suffolk Business Partner of the Year award.

Commenting on the report, Chief Executive of the RSA, Matthew Taylor said:

“Since the launch of Raising the Bar, we have seen the Suffolk educational community face up to the systemic problems from which they suffer and start to believe they can turn things around. Achieving a step-change in performance will require sustained effort and continuous adaptation, which needs to be driven by schools themselves. We have called this report ‘no school an island’ because we think vital to a radical improvement in Suffolk is a new public service ethos in which successful school leaders see their responsibilities and opportunities extending beyond their own school to the wider local system and community

Councillor Lisa Chambers, Suffolk County Council's cabinet member of education, skills and young people, said:

"When we commissioned the RSA to lead the Raising the Bar inquiry, we had one very clear objective in mind - to find solutions that would help improve the educational attainment of Suffolk children now and in the future.

"Whilst we will take time to assess fully all the report's recommendations, the proposed partnership with Hackney is something we're very positive about and have already started to implement. This isn’t about replicating exactly what Hackney has done because that wouldn’t necessarily work in Suffolk. We know that much can be achieved from closer working with them and that fresh ideas will come from partnerships like this.

“Educating young people is both our moral and social duty and as such, Suffolk County Council has made it clear that improving the attainment is our number one priority.

“We all want to give our children the very best start in life and this report sets us on a stronger and more focused path to success.”

Commenting on the report, RSA Associate Director, Louise Bamfield said:

“This report set out to answer one key question – what is holding back improvement in the quality of teaching in Suffolk? The recommendations we have made are designed to transform the culture of learning across the county, so that schools and students are better connected, more outward looking and ready to learn from others. It is our hope that a campaign for educational change across Suffolk, that is initially led by the local authority with input from schools and colleges, will naturally evolve into a bottom-up movement, led by schools and the community, driven by a collective commitment to give every child and young person the best possible start in life and an impatient demand to make it happen.”

No School An Island concluded that there is systematic underperformance in Suffolk schools. The report found that poor aggregate levels of pupil progress and attainment are combined with wide gaps in educational achievement between disadvantaged groups and other pupils, leading to poor rates of participation and retention in post-compulsory education and training. The report found that there is no evidence that pupil or parental aspiration in Suffolk is lower than anywhere else in England, but that there are several systemic factors holding back improvements in the quality of teaching.

View the No School An Island: Suffolk education enquiry report

Notes to editors

  1. For more information email RSA Head of Media Luke Robinson or call him on 020 7451 6893 or 07799 737 970.


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