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Education leaders praise Norfolk for improvement in school standards

Rob Cambell, chief executive of the Morris Education Trust, speaks at the Norfolk Curriculum Conference at the Kings Centre in Norwich. Picture: Bethany Whymark

Rob Cambell, chief executive of the Morris Education Trust, speaks at the Norfolk Curriculum Conference at the Kings Centre in Norwich. Picture: Bethany Whymark

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Leading education figures have praised the resilience of Norfolk's schools in the face of criticism by the sector's watchdog.

Clare Fletcher, director of schools at the Yare Education Trust, speaks at the Norfolk Curriculum Conference at the Kings Centre in Norwich. Picture: Bethany WhymarkClare Fletcher, director of schools at the Yare Education Trust, speaks at the Norfolk Curriculum Conference at the Kings Centre in Norwich. Picture: Bethany Whymark

More than 200 delegates at the Norfolk Curriculum Conference heard that the county had shown courage in the face of adversity and taken effective steps to improve school standards following a battering by the then head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw.

In 2013 Sir Michael said too many schools in Norfolk were failing to provide children with the standard of education they deserved – a statement which sparked an investigation into the poor performance of the county’s schools.

At the time Norfolk was in the bottom 10pc of authorities for primary schools and bottom 15pc for secondary schools based on Ofsted ratings, with more than a third (36pc) of schools ranked as “inadequate” or “requires improvement”.

But attendees at the conference, organised by the Norfolk-based Viscount Nelson Education Network (VNET), heard how the county did not wallow in self-pity but “embraced” the situation and strove for improvements.

Figures released in November 2018 showed how far the county had come – around 85pc of schools in the county are now judged “good” or better.

Speaking at the conference at Norwich’s Kings Centre on Friday, Rob Campbell, chief executive at the Morris Education Trust in Cambridgeshire, said Norfolk had been “hit hard” by Ofsted’s dissection of its education service.

“The county had two options. It could be disheartened and cry over the fact that schools were not very good and that nobody wanted to come and teach here, or it could augment itself and strengthen itself through what it did and that is the option it chose,” he said.

“We decided to do something that is new and that works for Norfolk.”

Clare Fletcher is director of schools at the Yare Education Trust and has a specific brief to support improvements in the trust’s schools.

She told the conference that for the trust, curriculum was “at the heart” of its drive for improvements.

“We wanted to revitalise the debate about what we are doing in schools,” she said.

“There is a healthy wariness growing about homogenous systems and ‘one size fits all’ logic.

“It is more than just trying to make sure children are numerate and literate – what skills and characteristics do we want to develop in them?”

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