Finding the right school for your child can be a daunting prospect. But in Peterborough, at least, it’s a lot less daunting than it used to be. Toby Venables reports on how education in the city is changing, what’s out there and where we go from here
The state of education in Peterborough has not always generated good news. This year, however, Peterborough students recorded some of the best ever A-level results for the city, with the overall pass rate climbing to 98.2% – an improvement of 0.3% on last year’s results (the national average pass rate stands at 98.1%). ‘The quality of education in Peterborough is going in the right direction,’ says Council Leader John Holdich, ‘despite the challenges of migration and one of the highest birth rates in the country. That’s now balancing out. That also reflects the fact that we are attracting firms who are bringing people to work in Peterborough – that’s good for the city and the skills we have here.’
Students achieved the highest number of A* and A grades ever recorded in the city this year, with 686 exams receiving the top grades
In total, about 1,000 young people sat A or AS levels this summer at secondary schools across Peterborough – a 6.7% increase in the number of exam entries compared to last year. The number of exams graded A*-C increased by almost 200, with the percentage rising by 1.7% from last year to 73.7%. Students also achieved the highest number of A* and A grades ever recorded in the city, with 686 exams receiving the top grades. GCSE results for 2015 were more mixed. English pass rates were above the national average (65.7% achieved A*-C grades, compared to 65.4% nationally) but Maths was below the national average of 63.3%, and some ‘significant variation’ was reported between schools.
Nevertheless, the overall trend was up, putting Maths within 1% of the national average and 99.1% of students achieving five or more GCSEs. Jonathan Lewis, service director for education, people resources and corporate property, says of this year’s results: ‘We have been closing the gap on the national average for a number of years so it’s great for A-level results to continue to improve and to climb above it.’ He praises the dedication of the city’s young people, teachers and all school staff in helping to bring this about, but says it is also the result of improvements made across Peterborough schools in recent years.
‘As well as a record number of students receiving top A-level grades, we are now above the national average for the percentage of city schools that are judged good or better by Ofsted’
‘We have invested significantly in modernising secondary schools in the city and we will carry on working hard with headteachers to make sure our performance continues to improve.’ John Holdich – also cabinet member for education, skills and university, with many years experience in that sector – adds: ‘This is a further example of the huge strides being made in improving education in Peterborough. As well as a record number of students receiving top A-level grades, we are now above the national average for the percentage of city schools that are judged good or better by Ofsted.’
The statistics from Ofsted make heartening reading. In 2009, 58.4% of pupils were attending schools judged ‘good or better’. By July 2015, this had risen to 84% (the national position is currently at 82.7%, the East of England average 79.9%) and it was expected that by September even greater improvements would be shown. Of the 11 Ofsted inspections undertaken in 2015-16, 10 schools were judged good or better. Seven schools remain as requiring improvement and three in special measures following inspection last year, but these are expected to change with new inspections. Other signs are also healthy. Permanent exclusions have dropped from 78 in 2009 to 17 this year. Overall absence is also down, as is the number of young people not in employment, education and training – all good news for parents living in the city, or those considering a move here.
So, where do we go from here? ‘In the last five years, in education, we have completely modernised and extended our schools, and we have several new schools in the pipeline,’ says John Holdich. ‘We’ve got extended schools now, so kids can stay there until they’re 18, but we also need to find alternatives for those who are not engaged in education in schools.’ Once, Peterborough was criticised for its poor post-16 education provision, but now a new university is under development for the city, and for those wanting a more hands-on option, there’s also the brand new Greater Peterborough University Technical College (UTC) opening in September 2016.
The Peterborough City Council website is a great place to start to find out more about local state schools. Visit www.peterborough.gov.uk/residents/schools-and-education
For more information on independent schooling, visit the Independent Schools Council website at www.isc.co.uk