This week, I launched a new Education Commission to help us address the issues which impact on children’s achievement in school.
This is a really important step forward for Knowsley, and something my officers and I have been working hard on for the past 18 months or more.
I am delighted that we have been able to attract high quality people to sit on the Commission which includes experts in education both locally and nationally, university representatives and charitable organisations, as well as council officers and councillors.
The Commission is chaired by Christine Gilbert CBE, a former Chief Inspector of Schools in England and Head of Ofsted.
Together we have made a commitment to tackle the very difficult issues that impact on performance in education and make improvements that will benefit the whole system and every pupil who passes through it.
In order to ensure that our collective efforts have the most impact on our schools, we commissioned a piece of research to give us an honest, warts-and-all appraisal of where the greatest problems lie and the most effective way to begin to turn the trend of underperformance around once and for all. It was really important to get a realistic starting point and for everyone involved to understand the nature and scale of the challenge we are about to tackle.
Some really useful suggestions came out of that report and gave us a focus for the way forward when it was presented back to us by the ‘think tank’ who produced it in June at an Education Summit.
Unfortunately this piece of research was somewhat hijacked by that same think tank on Monday when they decided to promote their own agenda and suggest that the Government should consider establishing a grammar school in Knowsley. This is something I am fundamentally opposed to, and so is the Commission. However it certainly helped the researchers publicise themselves as it tapped into a very topical issue. Sadly it presented a rather misleading picture of the work that we will actually be doing, which I can say with certainty does not include a grammar school!
Quite the opposite of that, our aim is to raise standards for all Knowsley pupils, not to segregate them into those who deserve to achieve and those who do not – which is why a grammar school system would not be right for our borough.
That aside, the launch event of the Commission was really well attended and there was a very positive feeling amongst all of us that we can work together on this and make progress on what has long been one of the borough’s biggest – and most important – challenges.