Northants education chiefs reveal improvement plans

The county council aims to improve standards, and results, in the classroom
The county council aims to improve standards, and results, in the classroom

Northamptonshire County Council has launched its new ‘Race to the Top’ strategy in which it is investing £1m in a bid to become one of the best performing local authorities for education by 2020.

The county council, which is currently ranked 114th out of 150 for the quality of its secondary schools and 129th for its primary schools, is inviting all 367 schools in Northamptonshire to come forward with ideas about how education standards can be improved.

No new staff will be employed to instigate the Race to the Top strategy, but the county council will rely on its existing communications channels with schools to spread the message of the new project.

Four workshops are also due to be held in four different parts of the county in the next couple of months where schools will be invited to find out more about how to bid for funding.

County council leader Cllr Jim Harker accepted that £1m would not provide funding for every school but said the council hoped to secure more money from the Department for Education in future years if the project was successful.

Cllr Harker said the local authority had decided to act after figures published last year showed a third of schools in the county were not rated good or outstanding by Ofsted.

He said he believed the council could still have an impact on improving the performance of schools despite the fact half of the schools in the county are now academies, therefore no longer under direct control of the local authority.

He said: “We came to the conclusion that it is about time that changed. It is not good enough, particularly for an aspiring county like ours.

“Particularly when there is a need to provide an educated workforce for the businesses that want to locate here.”

Cllr Matthew Golby, cabinet member for children, families and education, said he no longer wanted the county’s education standards to be “plagued by mediocrity”.

He said: “We don’t want to just aim to be above average, we want to be among the best performing local authorities in the country.”

Cllr Harker said one of the ideas he would like to see schools come forward with was homework clubs or activities that occupied pupils after school lessons finished at 3.30pm.

Cllr Harker said he thought one of the main reasons schools were underachieving in Northamptonshire was due to poor leadership.

Part of the Race to the Top strategy will involve sharing best practice and creating a coherent teacher training programme.

The Northants Enterprise Partnership is also working in partnership with the council to help improve the interaction between businesses and schools.

Race to the Top will be overseen by a strategic education and skills partnership board, involving business leaders, county council staff, the Department for Education and the voluntary sector.