Improving, but can do better

BIG strides are being made in improving education in Fenland but major challenges remain.

That is the overall conclusion of a wide-ranging review of educational attainment in the district carried out jointly by Cambs County and Fenland District councils. The review, which has been welcomed by councillors, said levels of attainment were rising, particularly at secondary school level. It also stated that the gap between levels of attainment in Fenland and the rest of Cambridgeshire and nationally was narrowing.

“The overall improvement is a result of the hard work that schools and partners have contributed both to education directly and the wider work to develop provision for children and families in the district,” the report said.

The review was carried out by Cambs County Council’s Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee and Fenland Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Performance Panel. It will be considered by the county Cabinet on December 14 and Fenland’s Cabinet on December 16.

While recognising improvements, it stressed the need to raise the aspirations of parents and the community.

It emphasised that educational attainment was affected by a multitude of factors impacting on the lives of children, their families and the wider community. It said issues needed to be tackled from an early age, including “taking advantage of proposals for additional provision for two-year-olds and ensuring that it is targeted at those in most need”.

“Children living in different parts of the district experience different life chances, as do children with specific backgrounds/experiences,” it said. “The educational impact of these differences increases as children grow up, so tackling them at the earliest stage possible is critical to improving attainment and ensuring all children have the same opportunities.”

The review also said there was scope for strengthening partnership working between schools, the Councils and businesses to tackle the number of those not in education, employment or training (NEET).

It also addressed problems facing school leavers: “The good work of addressing attainment as early as possible will be undone if we do not get transitions to post-16 provision and transitions to higher and further education and into employment right.”

“Building on the improvement in Fenland can only be achieved by continuing to deepen and improve partnership working,” it concluded.

The review made several recommendations, including:

* Cambridgeshire County Council and Fenland District Council to work with schools and providers to raise aspirations in Fenland

* To widen the availability of provision at the Early Years Foundation Stage

* To improve health engagement, involving GPs, health visitors and children’s centres

* To support efforts to address the recruitment and retention of teachers, health visitors and social workers

* To develop stronger links between businesses and schools

Fenland District Councillor David Wheeler, who chaired the review panel, said: “The only way out of deprivation is education, so improving educational attainment is absolutely vital for Fenland’s future well-being and prosperity. To achieve it we need to engage everyone in the community. We believe that we have identified all the key factors involved and that our recommendations point the right way forward.”