An independent commission looking at educational attainment, aspiration and employability in Suffolk is to be lead by Matthew Taylor - CEO at the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) and former prime ministerial advisor.
It comes as the latest GCSE attainment figures for the county show that whilst there have been improvements year on year, the county is still four percentage points below the national average when it comes to young people getting five or more good GCSEs.
The commission was launched at Suffolk County Council’s ‘Raising the Bar’ conference in Ipswich - where 200 delegates from the world of education, business and local government gathered to back the programme.
The Raising the Bar programme will also look at future employment opportunities in the Suffolk economy, especially in the green energy production industry, and what can be done to ensure young people are prepared for the prospects on offer in the county.
Matthew Taylor said:
“I’m very excited to be part of this initiative to improve educational attainment in Suffolk.
“It’s clear to me that education leaders in Suffolk don’t just want young people’s attainment to meet the national average. They want it to be above the average but the question is, how?
“We’re going to look at other areas of the UK and the world, like London which made a similar improvement in 10 years, to see what lessons can be learned and adapted for Suffolk.
“From what I’ve already seen, the passion and enthusiasm here is sure to deliver real quality outcomes.”
Councillor Graham Newman, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for education and young people, said:
“It’s time we take the issue of educational attainment and aspiration in Suffolk by the horns.
“This is not about asking schools just to ‘try harder’. This is about building confidence and the right attitude in our young people and the entire county so that we can all capitalise on the employment opportunities that are right on our own doorsteps.
“To do this we need to ensure that raising attainment becomes everybody’s business - parents, carers, employers and the media.
Everyone in Suffolk needs to play their part in raising expectations, challenging young people and supporting them to be successful.
“We have huge economic opportunities in the power generation industry, IT, agriculture and port logistics, amongst others. We need to make sure Suffolk supplies these industries with home grown talent.”
The independent commission will first start work talking to the many delegates who made pledges of support and services at the conference. Time will be spent working with Suffolk employers and head teachers. Regular updates will be provided and the commission is due to conclude its work in May 2013. A further conference focusing on primary schools will be held in November 2012.
Educational attainment in Suffolk
55% of young people in Suffolk achieve five or more good GCSEs (A* - C) including English and maths. Nationally, 59% achieve the same level. Performance at a local and national level has improved year on year however the rate of improvement nationally is greater.