Candidate speaks out over Ely College crisis - and blames funding and a trust that is not based in Cambridgeshire

Huw Jones

Huw Jones - Credit: Archant

Secondary education is in crisis because of inadequate funding and a governing trust that is not local, according to a parliamentary candidate who has spoken out following the Ely College leadership replacement.

Huw Jones, Labour prospective parliamentary candidate for south east Cambridgeshire, said: “School leaders and governors are struggling to recruit and retain experienced teachers.

“The level of funding for our schools is inadequate and I think it’s unfair to blame teachers when the root of the problem is in the school funding formula. Secondary education in Cambridgeshire is in crisis,” he said.

The entire leadership team at Ely College have been replaced during the run up to exams in the wake of a damning Ofsted report where the College was rated as inadequate.

The report has specific criticisms of governance at the school and of teaching quality.

It also says the school has been unable to appoint subject leaders with sufficient specialist knowledge with an over reliance on newly qualified teachers.

Mr Jones added: “Ely College is in the hands of CfBT Educational Trust, a body with no associations with Ely or Cambridgeshire.

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“The CfBT Educational Trust has failed the school community. They are remote and unaccountable. I would call for the college to be taken back into local democratic control under the wing of Cambridgeshire County Council or replace the CfBT Educational Trust with a local group rooted in the community,” he said.

Cambridgeshire was 149th in the school funding league in 2014-15 and schools in neighbouring counties received up to £1500 more per pupil each year, he added.

Inspectors said standards in numeracy and literacy at the college had dropped, targets for pupils were unrealistic and changes in staffing had reduced the quality of teaching.

Inspectors also said that “too many students” were being removed from lessons during the day because of behavioural problems and blamed the school’s zero-tolerance policy on “many days of learning being lost”.

David Turner, the lead inspector, said: “Leaders and managers at all levels, including members of the local governing board, have failed to secure sufficient improvement in those areas identified at the last inspection.

“This has resulted in a significant decline in the quality of education provided.

“The principal and senior team have followed policies which have proven to be ineffective, particularly in the improvement of teaching, management of behaviour and development of leadership.

“The academy’s behaviour policy is based on a ‘zero tolerance’ approach. This policy has resulted in a very large number of instances of the removal of students from education, and many days of learning have been lost.

“Achievement has declined during this period. These arrangements disrupt normal learning and teaching for students.”

The inspector also criticised the school’s governing body, saying that it had been unable to challenge teachers about falling standards because “they have been overly dependent on the picture presented to them by senior leaders”.

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