A step in the right direction, but there’s no room for complacency: Cllr Sonia Barker on Suffolk’s GCSE and A-Level results

Pupils, parents, carers and staff are to be congratulated that the Suffolk overall 5A*-C GCSE results (including English & Maths) have improved to 54.5% overall. There are some excellent examples of schools and their pupils achieving high outcomes which is very good news. However, there are parts of Suffolk such as Lowestoft and sections of Ipswich where SCC should target resources at those schools that are underachieving and where pupils are not reaching their potential.  For example in Lowestoft the average GCSE 5 A*-C results (including English & Maths) are 39% which is 16% below the Suffolk average (despite one school – Pakefield High – gaining 52%).  Good practice needs to be shared across all schools to raise attainment as a matter of urgency.

In addition, the Department for Education (DfE) has introduced a `Floor target`: a school is below the 5A*-C GCSE expected progress “floor standard” if less than 40% of pupils achieve 5 A*-C GCSE (including English & Maths). A number of schools across Suffolk are still falling behind on this measure. There is a real risk of an educational divide opening up which Suffolk County Council Schools Improvement Service need to address quickly.

Suffolk also remains one of the worst areas in the Eastern Region for young people from a disadvantaged background, with only 27.7% of pupils attaining 5 A* to Cs at GCSE (including English & Maths). When we consider that Suffolk – a relatively opulent area – falls behind some of the most deprived authorities in the East, such as Luton and Thurrock, when it comes to disadvantaged pupil attainment, it makes obvious the work that is still to be done.

At `A` level both academic and vocational exam results show improvement. 89.9% of pupils are achieving at least two substantive A-level qualifications, which is up 1% from last year. This is to be greatly commended, but there is no room for complacency.

Overall, Suffolk’s GCSE and A-Level results represent a hard-fought step in the right direction. But the results themselves hide many problems, such as schools still struggling in areas like Lowestoft and Suffolk’s persistent problem of disadvantaged attainment. There is much work that still needs to be done by Suffolk County Council.

I would like to offer hearty congratulations to Suffolk’s young people for all their hard work in securing such good results this year. Pupils, parents, care, teaching and school staff can be assured that I, and the Labour Group, will continue to hold the Suffolk County Council administration to account to ensure that every child in Suffolk reaches his or her potential. After all, a child only gets one chance at a good education.

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