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Islington education chiefs set out their plans for schools in the borough

'It remains our clear policy to oppose the academisation of existing schools and the opening of unnecessary “free schools”.'

04 February, 2019

Outgoing education chief  Joe Caluori

Making sure we have a truly inclusive school system for all children and young people in Islington is at the heart of making our borough a fairer place for all.

Looking back, the transformation in our local schools over the last decade, from a time when the borough ranked in the bottom 20 local authorities for its GCSE results and 70 per cent of parents sent their children to schools outside the borough, is simply staggering.

Islington now ranks in the top 20 in the country for boosting pupils’ attainment; pupils from less-well-off backgrounds have made the sixth highest amount of progress in the country in writing between key stages 1 and 2.

Kaya Comer-Schwartz 

Despite massive and unsettling changes to GCSEs, provisional results from last summer show young people are performing well.

What’s more, more than nine in 10 of our local schools are now rated as Good or Outstanding by Ofsted.

We are working with schools on robust plans to help them all to achieve Outstanding ratings.

This transformation has come about thanks to the ambition, skill and sheer hard work of pupils, teachers, headteachers, teaching assistants, school governors, trade unions and parents.

It’s also important to recognise the role the council has played in this success story, especially the work our school improvement team does.

Now, with the new Islington Community of Schools, we are working as a partner with schools to help them deliver the wider priorities we share.

The national education system has been prodded, poked and played about with by central government repeatedly over the years.

We saw the consequences of this last week with the news that Tech City College is to close. The millions of pounds wasted by the government on pet projects like this is disgraceful.

It’s also a tragedy that the biggest losers are those young people whose education has been treated as an experiment by the government.

It’s a relief that plans to force schools to become academies were beaten back, and we were proud to be part of that campaign.

It remains our clear policy to oppose the academisation of existing schools and the opening of unnecessary “free schools”.

Instead, we believe that the council should be free to deliver new schools when and where they are needed and to help those that are struggling.

But we know there are still challenges facing our schools and education in the borough.

We need to further reduce the use of “alternative provision” and exclusions in our schools.

We need to look harder at housing options for teachers, as the National Education Union has rightly identified this as a risk for London schools.

We also need to support schools to retain their focus on providing a holistic (or comprehensive) education for all young people, which is challenging in an environment with ever-changing government metrics and policies to contend with.

But there are also exciting opportunities on the horizon.

Islington is leading the way in music education for all and in access to cultural opportunities, with our pioneering Music Education Hub and our 11 by 11 pledge – a unique offer that all schoolchildren will have the opportunity to experience 11 outstanding cultural experiences by Year11.

Our trauma-informed approach in primary schools is helping to improve behaviour and we want to take this learning into secondary schools.

Helping children be ready for the jobs of tomorrow is also a key focus.

Coding clubs and fantastic IT in schools are propelling pupils to the forefront of the opportunities that technology presents.

We also want to see the council’s extensive early-help services better integrated into schools, supporting our ambitions to become the best local authority at providing prevention-based support that stops issues from escalating.

None of these challenges and ambitions are easy to deliver with a government presiding over 70 per cent cuts to the council’s core funding since 2010, at the same time as cutting schools’ budgets.

Despite this, at the heart of our commitment to making Islington a fairer place for all will always remain giving all children and young people the best start in life, no matter what.

  • Cllr Joe Caluori is executive member for children, young people and families. Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz, executive member for community development, will take over Cllr Caluori’s position when he steps down after six years in the post on March 1.

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