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Celebrating educational achievement

Debbie Barnes | Chair of ADCS Educational Achievement Policy Committee | Director for Children Services, Lincolnshire County Council

As a director of children’s services I always look forward to end of the summer term. It is a time to reflect and celebrate the achievements of our children and young people and I was privileged to attend a range of events showcasing some notable successes in our schools around Lincolnshire.

It’s too easy to get caught up in the frenzy of exam results and performance without reflecting on the talented individuals our schools are nurturing, day in and day out.

The Council held our annual education awards towards the end of the summer term where schools, members of the Council, local businesses, charities and the local media came together to celebrate and recognise achievements in the face of family tragedies or serious disabilities. The winners were an inspiration to all. I am always humbled to see how our young people are excelling both inside and outside the classroom, making their mark in the community and helping to raise the aspirations of others.

The teachers themselves also deserve a lot of praise. It’s their job to strike the right balance between discipline, encouragement, compassion and all the other qualities that make a difference to the lives of young people. Inspiring them to succeed. There’s no doubt that both they and their support staff play a vital role as do family, parents and friends. They too understand the fine line between toughness and tenderness which helps children to realise their ambitions.

In my role as chair of the ADCS Educational Achievement Policy Committee I have been privileged to lead a small working group made up of ADCS members and virtual head teachers looking at the current methods used in assessing how effective local authorities, schools (including Academies), and regional schools commissioners are in closing the attainment and progress gap for children in care. Since the enactment of Academies Act in 2010, the education system has radically changed and we have seen, and continue to see, an increasingly autonomous school system emerging. It is therefore an appropriate time for the sector to re-consider the respective roles each of the key plays have in this task and their critical role in creating a culture of high aspirations for these learners.

Researchers from the Rees Centre, based at Oxford University, attended this meeting and are due to publish the results of an 18-month study into educational achievement and progress of children in care. Their findings will be incredibly helpful in supporting the sector to have a sophisticated dialogue about how we can better measure performance and the factors that influence and enable children to achieve better than expected progress. ADCS is working with the Rees Centre, as well as the National Consortium for Examination Results, and the national network of Virtual Head Teachers to translate this informative research into best practice and we will be seeking to engage the Department for Education and Ofsted in this debate in due course.

No reflective blog would be complete unless I touch on budget reductions. Finances remain a real challenge. I have spent a lot of time with my team reviewing policies, exploring service transformation and alternative procurement options yet I still can’t see a way to achieve the significant reductions which keep coming the way of local government. So the work continues.

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