League tables show county still near bottom of the class

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A council officer has defended the county’s primary schools after Government figures suggested those in Northamptonshire were among the worst in the country.

The Department for Education rated the county joint 130th out of 150 local authorities in England in terms of the number of pupils achieving a level four standard in both English and maths standard assessment tests at Key Stage Two.

According to the findings, 76 per cent of primary school pupils in Northamptonshire achieved a level four in both of those subjects.

The county came behind almost all neighbouring authorities, with Rutland ranked as high as joint 12th.

The East Midlands as a whole also had the third highest proportion of all the English regions of primary schools which were deemed to be below the benchmark level of at least 60 per cent of pupils achieving at least a level four in English and maths combined.

But Sally Manz, the head of school standards and effectiveness at Northamptonshire County Council, insists the figures do not tell the whole story about our schools.

She said: “We don’t want to be there, but we need to evaluate what is working, take on board recommendations of the Ofsted report and continue to adapt our role.

“For a member of the public reading that data it’s clearly going to cause concern, but the comfort I take is that I know our schools, and we as an authority, are taking the necessary actions to bring about improvements.”

The Key Stage Two results follow the publication of the annual Ofsted report in November, which showed only 59 per cent of Northamptonshire pupils attended schools described as either good or outstanding – ranking the county as joint 128th in England.

Mrs Manz said although a large proportion of schools were rated as good or outstanding, the nature of the county meant many of these better schools were in rural areas and so held fewer pupils than the average.

She added that Northamptonshire was an improving county which had achieved better results this time than in previous years. She also pointed out the county was ahead of the national average on another measure which ranks schools by the percentage of pupils who have improved their results by at least two levels in the two core subjects.

She said: “Progress was better than national progress and our attainment figures at Key Stage Two were the best they have been for five years.

“Four years ago we had 20 schools in special measures. At this moment in time we have got seven, but that’s still too many.”

She added that the attempts by the Government to improve standards meant the bar was constantly rising.

She said: “The challenge is that things are improving nationally as well so we have to improve at a greater rate than others around us. What was deemed to be good four years ago is no longer the bar.”

Five schools in the north of the county – Hall Meadow Primary, Kettering; Bozeat Community Primary; Gretton Primary; Great Addington Primary; and Brigstock Latham’s Primary – all saw 100 per cent of their pupils record at least a level four in English and maths.

Hall Meadow headteacher Lorraine Cullen said her school tried to emotionally engage with pupils and was helped by a supportive parent community.

She also said the county was a large local authority with pupils with many diverse needs.

Bozeat school headteacher Emma O’Brien said her school had turned around their results in recent years.

She said: “This is the start of my third year here. Our results fell the year before, so we concentrated a lot of time and effort into what to do. The whole school does the same area of work each term. I think that has really enabled us to move on because it gives us more collaboration in planning.

“We try to make the learning as exciting as possible.”

Jane Dooley, headteacher at Gretton Primary – one of the county’s academy schools – said: “It’s a credit to the teachers who all work really hard.”