THE area’s education bosses will study the programme which helped transform results at some of London’s poorly performing schools.
Cheshire West and Chester Council’s education scrutiny committee voted overwhelmingly to study the London Challenge programme after members expressed concern at the attainment of some schools – mainly in deprived areas – across the borough.
Cllr Mark Stocks, executive member for children and young people, proposed the move to try and improve schools in the authority.
Cllr David Armstrong revealed 83 per cent of 128 primary schools were classed as ‘good or better’ but there were pupils in 23 schools judged as ‘requiring improvement, satisfactory – or even worse, inadequate.’
Of 19 secondary schools, only two were classed as ‘outstanding’. Four were ‘inadequate or needing improvement’ which means more than 3,400 of the children in secondary schools were not receiving the education they deserve.
Cllr Armstrong, a former teacher, said: “Sadly it is the postcode lottery that still determines for many children the quality of education they receive in Cheshire West.
“All four under-performing secondary schools are in our most socially challenged areas of Ellesmere Port, Winsford and Chester.”
But the social challenges faced by some schools in Cheshire West were nothing to those faced in London 20 years ago, where the situation seemed hopeless but has since improved its GCSE performance so much the capital’s poorest areas often attain better than in affluent borough’s.
Cllr Mark Henesy proposed the council established a cross-party group, plus senior officers to deliver an equivalent model to London Challenge and to look at ways to improve schools, failing to provide an adequate standard of education.
“Areas like Liverpool and Manchester have improved their performance following in the footsteps of London Challenge” said Cllr Henesy.
Ellesmere Port’s two ‘outstanding’ primary schools were both in deprived areas, he told members. Both were using pupil premium to provide additional teaching time – “the kind of development we all want to see”.
But the council approved an amendment from Cllr Mark Stocks, agreeing the scrutiny panel should investigate what benefits London Challenge might have for some West Cheshire pupils.
Cllr Stocks said: “We already incorporate a number of elements that were part of the London Challenge and while I do accept Cllr Armstrong’s point that we do have some gaps, we are working to improve all schools across this authority.”
The executive member urged all members who were school governors to challenge headteachers and governing bodies to make the most effective use of pupil premium to help improve the outcomes for our young children.
Cllr Charles Fifield, a school governor, said he had seen first-hand the benefits of pupil premium on targeted projects.
Governors were concerned pupil premium might be “unintentionally affected” by the news all pupils will receive free schools meals for the first three years of primary school.
Cllr Fifield asked Cllr Stocks if he would write to the Government for clarification.
Cllr Stocks confirmed he was already in the process of writing to the Deputy Prime Minister on the issue.
See full story in the Chester Leader