Improving Andover’s schools

At Thursday’s meeting of Test Valley’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee Hampshire’s Cabinet member for Children’s Services, Cllr David Kirk, reported back on Education in Test Valley.The report was specifically requested because of borough councillor’s concerns about low standards in Andover’s schools.

 Cllr Kirk was able to report that exam results in Hampshire and in Test Valley were better than the national average. He also reported very improved results for Winton School. Winton was one of six schools in Hampshire designated national challenge schools by the secretary of state in June 2008. National challenge schools are those where less than 30% of pupils achieved five or more GCSE A to C grades (including both English and maths). In 2007 Winton achieved only 17%. In 2008 this increased to 31%,

 I joined Cllr Kirk in applauding the improvement and in congratulating the staff especially the head of Winton on the improved results. However we must take the results in context. Winton’s 2008 results are the same as 2003 and the average over the six years (2003 – 2008) is just under 30%. Averages for Harroway over the same period are just 27% and for John Hanson 45%. Meanwhile across the county the average was 53% and has been 50% – 60% for the past five years. GCSE results for Andover’s schools have not improved over the past five years.

I would expect some effort to be made to bring them up towards the county average. When quizzed neither Cllr Kirk nor his education officer could give any assurances that targets had been set for local schools to raise their results. This I believe is essential. While a great deal of good work is being done to improve attainment in Andover it is wasted unless realistic targets are set.

 The ensuing debate centred on standards and aspirations in Andover with claims that low unemployment levels in Andover contributed to low academic expectations and Cllr Kirk stating that parents who send their children out of town to school were not making a “well informed choice.” He also implied part of the problem in Andover’s secondary schools is the poor standards in our primary schools.

It is time we stopped looking for excuses for Andover’s poor academic records and looking for culprits for the low results. Local schools are working to raise standards. I hope to see the county education department investing time and money into working with them and setting targets and deadlines to achieve higher standards.

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