The politician responsible for school standards in Brighton and Hove has threatened to get tough with secondary heads if they continue to let down the most disadvantaged.
Councillor Tom Bewick spoke out yesterday (Monday 6 June) with a “state of the city” address to a Brighton and Hove City Council committee.
He told the Children, Young People and Skills Committee that it was vital to be “open and honest about the challenges that we face”.
Councillor Bewick said: “Not a single secondary school in the city is judged outstanding.
“The government’s Social Mobility Commission ranks the city in the bottom 40 per cent of local authorities in England on schooling performance linked to social mobility.
“We are in the bottom 20 per cent when linked to GCSE performance and free school meals pupils (FSM).
“Last summer’s results showed that the pupil premium and free school meals gap in the city is widening.
“In short, our head teachers and the secondary schools they lead need to do much better.
“I’m asking heads in particular to focus with renewed vigour on the progress of our disadvantaged students.
“The review of catchment areas and school admissions policies has a key part to play in ensuring fairness.
“But if we continue to see the disadvantage gap widen, I personally will have no hesitation in summoning chairs of governors and head teachers to this committee to explain in person why they continue to fail this important group of students.”
He acknowledged that his committee – unlike a House of Commons select committee – did not have the power to summon heads and others.
But he said that he would name and shame those who did not turn up and explain what they were doing to address poor performance and widening inequality.
Councillor Bewick said: “Our efforts will be made more complicated of course by a Secretary of State for Education who appears hell bent on destroying parental involvement and local democratic accountability of schools in England.”
He added: “Over the next year a progressive Labour administration in the city will look to reinvent the role of the local authority in education.
“We are determined to future-proof our schools from the kind of outside interference that local parents have said they do not want.
“But let me be clear about what is politically non-negotiable from the point of view of any new ways of working locally.
“All council maintained schools should continue to be locally accountable to their elected representatives and parents.
“We will not agree to any new arrangements that simply force the conversion of our schools (to academies) by the back door.”
Councillor Bewick also said: “While we must acknowledge the good work that people have been doing to address these difficult challenges, the local authority’s Ofsted inspection report – completed just before the last election – made it clear that children’s services ‘required improvement’.
“In short, in my view, the city lacked ambition.
“The political leadership and council staff at every level have worked tirelessly these past months to deliver some tangible results.
“A lot of progress has been made. But there is still a huge amount of work to do.”