Councillors: Are they listening?
Dear parents, pupils, ex-pupils, teachers, governors and everyone else
who has shown us such fantastic support: Thank you.
Please keep writing to your local Councillor, to the
Council leader Jeremy Pembroke, to education chief Patricia O'Brien,
and to your MP. Please keep sending us
your letters and the replies
Most Suffolk Councillors have been woefully unable
or unwilling to respond to specific questions from
the people they were elected to represent (see our "response
Many of the responses from the Council you have sent us are form letters.
Some Councillors have now taken to reproducing a "stock answer"
drafted for them by Council employees, and are not even bothering
to pen their own replies. You can read
a typical stock reply here, together with our commentary on it.
If you receive a stock reply, or any reply which doesn't answer your
questions, don't just accept it. Write back and ask
your questions again. We are worried that some Councillors have not
themselves properly read their education department's report or have
not understood it.
The Council keeps quoting statistics that have been shown to
be wrong, in particular about the difference between GCSE results
in the two systems.
results by Suffolk area
| Town or nearest town
|| total pupils in GCSE year
|| Pupils with 5 or more A-C grades at GCSE
| Bury St Edmunds
Note that, if you compare the two largest education
areas in Suffolk, Ipswich and Bury-St-Edmunds, three-tier Bury outperforms
two-tier Ipswich by a full 9.5 percentage points on
the government's key GCSE measure. Bury comes third in the county, behind
affluent (and far smaller) Debenham and Woodbridge, but has almost three
times as many pupils.
We need answers to questions like these:
- Why does the stock reply continue to promote
the myth that there is a "clear and worrying
difference" between academic achievement in two- and three-tier
education? The Council's own report contains corrective feedback from
a Professor at York University which shows that the difference is
minimal. See our analysis here.
- Why does the stock reply assert in blanket fashion
that "those in the three-tier system lag behind throughout their
school life, and come out with lower grades at GCSE"? The fact
is that how well you do at GCSE depends on where you live
(see our table above). If you live in well-off Debenham,
Woodbridge or Bury St Edmunds, you are more likely to do well in the
government's key GCSE educational measure: pupils gaining five or
more grades between an A and a C. If you live in Felixstowe or Lowestoft,
you are more likely to do badly. This has nothing to do
with whether you are in two-tier or three-tier education.
- Why is Suffolk trying to rush this change through
when Ipswich has applied to become a "unitary
authority" - ie an independent urban Council, like Manchester?
If Ipswich were no longer part of Suffolk, then based on 2006 data,
there would only be 1,043 GCSE pupils left in two-tier schools,
and a full 4,355 in the three-tier system. If Suffolk is trying to
save money, perhaps it would make more sense to switch the few remaining
two-tier schools to the three-tier system.
- And if Ipswich plans to breaks away, how can
Suffolk County Council take any valid financial decision
on the future of education in the county while the fate of the city
See too this letter
from parent Teresa Kibblewhite, and this
one from parent John Hicks, for two great summaries of many of the
arguments parents have been putting to Councillors.