Education plan to take Liverpool ‘from better to best’

A blueprint to make Liverpool a national leader in school standards has been unveiled.

Ambitious targets are set out in a report by the Liverpool Education Commission, established by Mayor Joe Anderson and chaired by former Secretary of State Estelle Morris, Baroness of Yardley.

‘From Better to Best’ sets out a vision in which the city builds on recent improvements, further raising standards and narrowing the attainment gap between different groups of children.

It makes 16 recommendations, including developing a ‘Pupil Promise’, and plans for Liverpool to become the foremost reading city in the country.

The ‘Pupil Promise’ would see the development of a Liverpool local curriculum, going beyond the national curriculum and building on work with partners such as cultural organisations, businesses, college and universities.

The document proposes that Liverpool should make it a priority for all children to be able to read by the time they leave primary school, as almost one in five locally and nationally do not meet national targets at the moment. A partnership with the respected Reader Organisation will be created to help drive forward improvements.

The report is the result of a 12 month commission into the city’s education system which has involved widespread consultation with schools, businesses, arts, cultural and sporting organisations, faith groups, governors, parents and pupils.

Estelle Morris said: “There is no doubt that standards in Liverpool have risen significantly. The city now compares well, and in many cases better, with other similar cities and that is to be welcomed.

“However, we can never stand still. The need for more young people to achieve at the highest level will continue and the city needs to respond to the changes brought about by the government agenda. It is important therefore that we take stock of where we are and set out our ambitions for the future.

“Liverpool faces a choice. It can continue as it is, and no doubt that will bring steady further improvement, but it could set its sights higher and aim to be a national leader in school improvement.

“I don’t underestimate the enormity of this task, but Liverpool now has an improving education system and should have the confidence to set higher targets and push new boundaries.”

The study has found that pupils begin primary school significantly below other children elsewhere in the country, but by the time they reach the age of 16 the gap has narrowed to just below the national average.

Although GCSE results in Liverpool have risen significantly over the last decade, four out of 10 young people locally and nationally still do not leave school with five A* – C grades including English and maths. For those on free school meals in Liverpool, only one in three achieved these grades, while only 15 percent of those who are in care reached this level.

The report recommends that the Liverpool Learning Partnership – in which schools work together to support and challenge each other – becomes the lead agency on education in the city.

Mayor Joe Anderson said: “I very much welcome and endorse this report, which makes a series of bold but sensible recommendations to identify how we can go further and faster.

“Liverpool has made tremendous strides in education over the last few years, but we must not be complacent and I want every child in the city to achieve their full potential.

“We owe it to them that they get the opportunity to leave school with relevant qualifications which enable them to forge a decent career.”

Other proposals include:

•           Setting up an accredited Liverpool Teacher Charter Mark and developing a high quality programme of professional development

•           The Mayor to take the lead in developing stronger links between businesses and schools

•           Establishing a system of recognition for local education volunteers who help out in schools and work on governing bodies

•           Reviewing teacher training and suggesting actions to increase diversity among the teacher workforce

•           Commissioning a review of school places and using it to influence future capital investments

Paul Dickinson, Chair of Liverpool Learning Partnership, said: “There is a huge determination and commitment from all of those involved to ensure all young people get an education that leads to a successful career.

“I look forward to the challenge of developing proposals to achieve the recommendations from the report.

“I’m confident that with the determination of all Liverpool learning organisations, this can be achieved.”

Dr Jane Davis MBE, Founder and Director of The Reader Organisation, said: “We’re delighted to partner with the Mayor in this exciting initiative which will future-proof the next generation against educational failure.

“Research from the OECD has proved that nothing affects children’s social mobility more than reading for pleasure – it’s more important than what your parents do or where you go to school.

“We’ve been working to secure Liverpool’s title as the UK’s literate city for more than 10 years – so we’re delighted to help the Mayor lead this vital work. Let’s work together to get our children reading.”

The report also recommends that an independent panel be established to review progress on the proposals at the end of the next school year.

READING SUCCESS STORY

Whitefield Primary School in Everton

Located in one of the most deprived wards in the country, most pupils enter the school below the expected standards, but make outstanding progress and are at the required level by the time they leave. Emphasis is placed on reading, with specialist ‘reading recovery’ teachers providing one to one support where necessary.

All eligible year six pupils at the school meet the required standards in reading and 78 percent are above average.

The school has also purchased high quality class reading books to stimulate writing, particularly for higher ability children. It has just opened a new library to support and develop pleasure in reading across the school.

Pupil attendance has also improved significantly over the last few years, up from 92 to 96 percent (the national average is 95 percent).