The Camden New Journal published the below letter from me on Camden’s increasingly dire performance on school standards.
Standardised test results have come out recently showing Camden in the bottom quarter of London boroughs at 3 of the 4 age groups, with children falling a whole grade behind similar children in Barnet between 11 and 18. This is not acceptable, and it’s vital that Camden debates the issue immediately.
Ensuring children get the best possible start in life is a moral imperative for local councillors. It’s also one of the biggest areas of expenditure for the council, at £200m a year.
As councillors are directly responsible for running most state schools in Camden, councillors must spend proper time working to raise school standards.
To that end, I found myself poring over the latest school results for 16-year-olds, published this month. The most important measure is ‘Progress 8’, which measures how children have progressed between 11 and 16: given how well they did at 11, was their attainment at 16 above or below what would be expected based on the national picture? This thus controls for demographics and focuses on school performance.
To my shock, Camden now finds itself in the bottom 20% of London boroughs and now way behind every other borough in north, west, and central London. 80% of the secondary schools that Camden runs are now below the national average.
While Camden’s schools scrape by, Westminster has the best results in Inner London, while Barnet has the best results in the whole country. Both, of course, are Conservative-run, but Camden is outpaced by councils of all political stripes.
Children in Barnet schools now do a whole half a grade across the board better at age 16 than identical children in Camden schools. Among children from the poorest households, the gap is even larger.
Camden urgently needs to review how its schools work – or don’t work – and put it right.
Each full council meeting holds a themed debate on a particular subject. Camden Conservatives have proposed the next meeting debates the issue of raising school standards: calling in evidence from colleagues from boroughs with better results, educational experts, and headteachers and leaders from a wide range of schools.
This will allow Camden councillors to see for themselves what works better elsewhere – pick the administration off its laurels, and set it to work to improve our kids’ education. Camden can’t keep failing our children.