The gap between the best and worst performing secondary schools in East Sussex was discussed by councillors on Tuesday.
East Sussex County Council’s Cabinet heard that while grades improved overall in 2015 there was still a ‘big difference’ in the percentage of students gaining five GCSE grades between A* and C across the county.
Councillors also expressed concern about the amount of power they had as a local authority to directly improve poor performance.
County councillor Kim Forward said that provisional results showed that in East Sussex 13 secondary schools’ results had gone down and 13 had gone up.
She said: “There’s a big difference across the county with the highest achieving school having 73 per cent of students achieving five A*-Cs and the lowest performing school only having 32 per cent of students reaching that benchmark.”
Meanwhile six schools had figures lower than 40 per cent.
She asked: “What else do we need to be doing to support and challenge our schools and our academies?”
Nick Bennett, ESCC’s lead member for learning and school effectiveness, said he shared her ‘disappointment’ at some of the results.
But he added: “Overall the picture looks better than it did last year. It’s a good news story for the county but I share Councillor Forward’s frustration.”
Francis Whetstone felt they ‘had the responsibility without the power’ when it came to education and added: “I do not think the academies present a huge threat, I think they are an opportunity.”
Roy Galley agreed, and said: “We are responsible for performance without any direct means to influence that.”
He asked if they could lobby the Government to ‘either give us the power or take away the responsibility’.
Meanwhile John Barnes added: “I’m not sure the point is taken by the education teaching profession that schools actually can make a real difference.
“There is a danger in the education profession of using deprivation or other social factors as an alibi for poor performance.”
Stuart Gallimore, director of children’s services, explained that there were risks involved in the ‘fragmentation’ of the way schools were governed and they had to manage that in ‘the most appropriate way’.
The county council had written to the regional schools commissioner asking what action he was intending to take with academy chains about their level of performance, and in the case of converter academies whether their performance would lead to them being brought into an academy chain or not.
Mr Gallimore said they were also having ‘robust conversations’ with the two worst performing community schools and added: “The starting point is working with all providers to get the best possible outcomes for all the children in this authority.”
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