Bradford ‘needs more outstanding head teachers’ to climb up league tables

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A BRADFORD MP has said the city needs outside support from more outstanding head teachers in order to get off the bottom of GCSE league tables.

David Ward, the Liberal Democrat MP for Bradford East told a question time event that the city did not have the capacity to transform standards at all the schools which needed help.

The event this evening saw Conservative Shipley MP Philip Davies, Mr Ward, Bradford Council’s executive member for children’s services Coun Ralph Berry, the National Union of Teachers’ deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney and Huddersfield head teacher Hawa Bibi Laher answering questions.

Mr Ward said he did not believe there were enough outstanding heads in the city. He was backed by Coun Berry who said he wanted to be able to learn lessons from heads who delivered outstanding education in communities similar to those in Bradford. He highlighted the work of Gugsy Ahmed, head of Parkinson Lane Primary in Halifax, which he said had received seven outstanding judgements in a row.

The event organised by the NUT took place at Grange Technology College in Bradford.

After the meeting Mr Ward told The Yorkshire Post that more work needed to be done to bring outstanding head teachers into Bradford.

He said: “From the people I speak to I think we have the best bunch of heads we have ever had in Bradford but we need more. There are more than 200 schools across the district you need 30 or 40 outstanding heads to be able to support all the schools who need it.”

Bradford saw the level of pupils achieving five good GCSEs including English and maths fall by nine per cent from 53 per cent to 44 in the latest tables. This meant it was the joint second lowest ranked authority area in the country.

All the panellists at this evening’s event criticised league tables with Mr Courtney applauding Mr Davies’ call for them to be scrapped. The Shipley MP said they created perverse incentives and that parents did not need a league table to know how good schools were.

Mr Ward said it was unfair to compare schools in different “socio-economic areas” and said schools serving more deprived areas were more likely to have a higher pupil turnover than those in more affluent areas.

A question to the panel highlighted the fact that international GCSEs did not count towards schools’ league table score and asked if this meant the tables were irrelevant.

Coun Berry said he believed the tables were flawed but said a bigger concern to him was the removal of some vocational qualifications which he said would be the right choice for some young people.

Mrs Bibi Laher, the head teacher at Spring Grove Juniors and Infants, who received an OBE for services to education in 2011, also criticised league tables. She said that having pupils with special educational needs who were unable to sit tests in a year group could make a big impact on a school’s ranking and said they did not provide an accurate picture for parents.

The biggest area of disagreement on the night was the Government’s academies programme.

Academies - autonomous state funded schools with freedom over their timetable, budget and employment arrangements - were created under Tony Blair’s Labour Government.

Their numbers have been rapidly expanded by the coalition which has both encouraged and intervened to turn successful and struggling schools into academies.

Mr Davies said turning schools into academies gave teachers greater say by removing local politicians from running them. He said people who wanted less political interference in schools should welcome the academy movement.

However Mr Courtney disputed this and said there was no evidence that they raise standards.

He said: “When we say that we want to remove political interference it doesn’t mean we want to go back to the 19th century where all schools were run by churches, charities and philanthropists”.