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New strategy to improve education for children and young people in Stoke-on-Trent

A new strategy to improve education outcomes for children and young people in Stoke-on-Trent is set to be introduced if approved by city council cabinet members at a meeting.

The “Aspiration and Achievement for All” Improving Education Strategy 2020-2024 has been developed by the city council working with a number of partners across the city. Its ambition is to create a system that that promotes the very highest standards for all children and young people, closes the attainment gap with the rest of the country and allows every pupil in Stoke-on-Trent to reach their full potential.

The strategy identifies the key actions that will be put in place to help create a high-support and high-challenge culture that gives schools the best chance to succeed and supports leaders, teachers and other education staff to contribute fully to the improvements needed ultimately improving outcomes for children and young people in Stoke-on-Trent.

The 10 actions including a focus on tackling disadvantage and promoting inclusion, ensuring the right provision across the city, ensuring all children leave school with clarity on next steps whether that is education, employment or apprenticeship as well as working with schools to broker school-to-school support.

Through early years support, it sets out how the council aims to be the first authority to adopt the Thrive at Five programme approach – a comprehensive model of school readiness and early years development that covers maternal mental health, positive parental attachment, speech and language and good physical health development. This will incorporate proven programmes such as Hungry Little Minds and Family-by-Family.

The approach is part of the wider ‘Room to Grow Strategy’, the new Children, Young People and Families Strategy for Stoke-on-Trent.                                                       

Priorities have been shaped by feedback from professionals from partner organisations both inside and outside Stoke-on-Trent such as Stoke-on-Trent Clinical Commissioning Group as well as from schools across the city. The strategy takes on board feedback from the public to ensure that views from professionals and adult and young carers have been incorporated into how services are delivered.

Councillor Janine Bridges, cabinet member for the economy and education said: “We have been re-setting the relationship with the Regional Schools Commissioner [RSC], recognising that it is going to require a close partnership between the local authority, RSC and schools to make the necessary improvements.

“We want to create a culture where mediocrity is never accepted and this strategy will help us to do that. We don’t want coasting schools because our children and young people deserve better than that. We want to create a collective culture where we demand the best of each other, including the council, backed by a clear offer of support. We will also not back away from hard judgements if we consider a change in provider is needed. We want the very best providers in Stoke-on-Trent, some of which are already in the city, some we need to attract in.”

The strategy also aims to build on work undertaken through the coronavirus crisis. She continued: “We have facilitated a complete refresh of the Schools Forum, using the coronavirus crisis to develop a different model of relationship between local authorities and schools based on this desired culture of (mutual) high expectations, support and challenge. Evidence from the recent Ofsted focus visit shows that relations are much improved.

“We are creating an Educational Challenge Board with an independent chair and including the RSC’s representative, to ensure transparency in monitoring of schools’ performance, and early identification of the need for targeted support and intervention. This will allow a strong dialogue about improvement with our multi-academy trusts and teaching schools to focus on using the best practice in Stoke-on-Trent to raise standards. There will be a different approach for maintained schools but ultimately the goal is the same, securing better outcomes for children in our city.”

Councillor Dave Evans, cabinet member for children and young people said: “The success of the strategy is vital to the delivery of a number of other city-wide priorities. We will ensure that our education system prepares all children and young people to become confident and responsible adult citizens.

“We will equip them with the skills they need for their own future economic prosperity, and that of the city. In partnership with our schools, we will build a school system where the highest quality education is delivered in all Stoke-on-Trent schools and all schools work together in a self-improving, self- sustaining school-to-school support system. Together we will act as the champion of pupils and families, particularly our most vulnerable.”

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