In February, Salford City Council education officers reported sliding school achievements in the city – but the report was not made public. Now minutes of that meeting have revealed a worsening picture of results.
At Key Stage 4, only 53% of the city's pupils achieve Grade C/Level 4 GCSEs compared to a national average of 63.3%... "This remains an area of priority for improvement", state the minutes of the meeting.
With regards to the ten per cent gap in GCSE results, the minutes highlight 'The problems caused by recent changes to exams and curriculum'; 'cohorts of white British boys who are doing least well under this new testing regime' and 'pupils with English as an Additional Language'...
However, while lots of shiny new PFI schools have been built in the city, and others have been turned into academies, pupils' learning outcomes have gone into reverse. Salford Council was to bring in a new school improvement officer.
At Key Stage 2, Salford was at the national average for the new 'expected standard', with 61%, but had actually been above the national average the year before. Meanwhile, in relation to 'Progress 8' - which aims to capture the progress a pupil makes from the end of primary school to the end of secondary school - the figure was "slightly worse than last year".
The only slight light was at Early Years Foundation Stage, where the gap between Salford results (68%) and the national average (71%) "continues to narrow and we aspire to be at national average or above", although the minutes note that "31% of children in Salford are not 'school ready' at the end of Reception".
The minutes add that "Discussions took place in respect of how poverty can, and does impact on achievement and how some deprived areas are able to 'buck that trend' and with Salford having invested in low level early interventions we are seeing an improving picture for children in Salford..."
Meanwhile, in a speech today to the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' Section annual conference in Liverpool, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, laid out the crisis in education...
"This is a critical time for the education profession and for our pupils" she said "As I look around me I see a school funding crisis which is getting worse. I see children and young people whose mental well-being is under threat – and I wonder how far a narrow, academic curriculum and a barrage of high stakes tests are contributing to the increasing mental ill health of our children and young people.
"And I see teachers, far too many teachers, deciding that enough is enough" she added "They cannot cope, any more, with the stress and exhaustion which affects teachers as a matter of routine...in England, we waste, on an industrial scale, the talent, commitment and potential of our teachers.
"More than half of teachers in England leave the profession within ten years" she explained "They leave pupils who need them; colleagues who rely on them; parents who know that their children's life chances are being denied by the acute shortage of teachers in schools."
Incredibly, she added, many teachers were actually giving up teaching to become teaching assistants... "Imagine that. Imagine consultants becoming healthcare assistants. You can't really, can you? But that is the equivalent of what thousands of teachers are doing – because the job of teaching has become undoable."
She talked of teachers doing more unpaid overtime than any other profession, and new teachers earning less than the minimum wage, once tax, national insurance, student loan and these extra hours are taken into account.
Indeed, pay and workload are the reasons for teachers walking away from schools. It's also, as the Salford Council minutes state, the curriculum...
"Teachers today are being forced to teach pupils in ways which they find to be unacceptable, which distresses them" said Dr Bousted "Teachers are being forced to teach a narrow, academic curriculum which does not meet the interests and needs of the majority of our children and young people, and which is compounded by a vicious high stakes testing regime. A regime which is creating a crisis in children and young people's mental health.
"Teachers, who like children and young people, and want to help them to be ambitious, life-long learners, see the damage that the current national curriculum and tests are doing, and decide that they can, no longer, be part of an education system which goes so strongly against their professional principles" she added "...So many teachers see the damage that is being done both to their pupils and to their own professionalism, and decide that they cannot do this any more"
Railing against Tory Government school funding cuts, she urged people to get involved in a 'weekend of action' on 21st and 22nd April, as well as slating those who run academies for creaming off money from the state system via huge wage rises and "setting up companies, run by your daughter or your wife or some other relation, to provide 'services' to your school, extracting profit, lots of profit, £120million worth, out of public service..."
She also called for 5% pay rise for teachers and said "I put the Government on notice, now. It must trust its teachers and support them so that teachers can support their pupils and prepare them for life and work in the 21st century..."
See also previous Salford Star article - Almost every school in Salford to lose funding under Tory education policy - click here