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We can't attract enough good quality teachers, says Bradford Council
A hard-hitting 15-point action plan has been produced with the aim of driving up education standards across Bradford.
And among the recommendations are introducing ways to make it easier to sack poor-quality teachers.
Education chiefs have been battling for years to improve attainment at the district’s schools.
Despite improvements, especially to Ofsted inspection scores, this year Bradford’s primary schools recorded the third worst key stage two SATs results in England, while GCSE and A-Level results remain in the lowest 20 per cent nationally.
A new draft report now reveals the district’s problems include attracting quality teaching staff, difficulties posed by Bradford’s “constantly changing” ethnic make-up and a constant struggle to involve many parents in their children’s education.
A committee which spent a year investigating the schools system has now drawn up its initial findings and a list of 15 action points for education bosses to consider.
They include setting up a pool of high-quality supply teachers, giving English language lessons to some parents, and making sure the right people are sitting on schools’ governing bodies.
The work has been undertaken by Bradford Council’s Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Its chairman, Councillor Malcolm Sykes, said it would be premature to comment on the report while it was still at a draft stage and had not yet been approved by the full committee. But in the document’s introduction, he said the aim hd always been to see if the Council was missing something in its current approach.
He said: “Is there a ‘silver bullet’ that we need to find, which is still proving elusive and hidden within all the significant talent that already exists within the educational system?
“The report does not identify a ‘quick fix’ and recognises that the sustained commitment of everyone is essential to ensure progress.
“I do believe that despite the occasional setback, which is inevitable, significant progress is happening.”
Once the committee approves the draft of the report, it will be sent to the Council’s decision-making Executive, with a request to take action within a set time-frame.
Councillor Ralph Berry, executive member for education at Bradford Council, praised the draft report and said he was keen to “engage with everything” it recommended once it was presented to him.
He said: “It’s something we need. Any constructive input on how we can drive up achievement levels in Bradford is absolutely welcomed.”
The report raises concerns over schools’ reliance on agency staff.
It said the district had garnered a reputation as a tough place for teachers to work and as a result is failing to attract quality, experienced staff. Often, fewer people apply for jobs in Bradford than in other areas of the country, and it is not always possible for schools to fill vacancies.
As a result, schools regularly use agency staff. This was a particular problem in primary schools, the report said. So one of the recommendations is for the Council to employ “a core of skilled and competent teachers” which could provide an agency service to schools.
The report also suggests the Council should review its human resources policies to make it easier to challenge or even dismiss substandard teachers.
It said: “A head teacher raised the issue that when education leaders feel they have staff that need challenging and may in fact not be right for our schools, the Council’s policies on human resources, although supportive, are risk averse.
“Human resources officers and policies need to support head teachers in ensuring all members of the workforce are capable of doing their job well.”
Would-be head teachers were reluctant to take up headship posts at failing schools for fear of it harming their careers, the report revealed.
It said: “It is extremely risky for a young deputy head to apply for a headship at a school which is required to improve, let alone one in special measures. It is already becoming increasingly difficult to get the right would-be head teachers into those schools.”
Coun Berry said progress was starting to be made on staffing and recruitment, thanks to a number of different initiatives. He said: “I want Bradford to be a place where people come to make their careers. They do in social work. We want to emulate that in teaching.”
He also said he too had raised the possibility of a central pool of quality supply teachers.
He said he would like to see the schools coming together to set up such an agency, perhaps run as a social enterprise or co-operative.
According to the report, it can also be difficult for schools to recruit governors. It said: “Some schools have vacancies that remain unfilled for long periods of time. Finding hardworking and committed volunteers with the correct motives to put the school and the children’s education first can be problematic.” The report said governors should also be the “very best people” with the right skills and expertise for the job, and that inadequate governors should be replaced if necessary. This should be done by the governing bodies themselves, it said.
But the report also praises the work of partnership bodies which bring schools together and are helping to drive up standards.
The district has three partnership networks – one for primaries, one for secondaries and one for special schools – which help to share the best practice of the district’s top schools.
The partnerships also maintain the relationship between Bradford Council and the district’s academy schools, which are run outside of local authority control.
However, the report recommends that every school should be encouraged to get fully involved with a partnership.
Councillor Roger L’Amie (Con, Baildon) of Bradford Council’s Education Appeals Panel, said: “It is a well-constructed report. I think it is crucial that the executive implements the recommendations in this reports quickly and thoroughly. It is not possible to under-estimate the urgency of improving educational standards in Bradford for the benefit of both young people and the district’s economy.
“Spreading a good practice amongst Bradford schools must be pursued with vigour. It is clearly unacceptable that Bradford still, on many measures, is sitting towards the bottom of the tables of local authority performance.”
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