Early years education fears in West Sussex

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THE achievements of children in early years education in West Sussex is below the national average and getting worse.

In its report ‘Future West Sussex Plan 2015-2019’, the county council stated only 59 per cent of young children reached a good level of development (GLD) in 2014.

The figure saw West Sussex ranked 23rd for early years education in a table of 34 similar counties – a fall of eight places on the previous year. The council has now set itself the task of pushing the GLD performance into the top quartile by 2019.

The falling achievement levels continued in Key Stage 1, with performances in reading, writing and maths all dropping. In 2013, West Sussex Key Stage 1 children were among the best performing in the country for both maths and writing. One year later, they were average.

While the achievements of the younger children were falling, older students, in Key Stages 2 and 4 were seen to be improving, with a rise in the number gaining five or more GCSEs from A*-C.

Buoyed by the success, the ‘Future West Sussex Plan 2015-2019’ set the target of becoming the top ranked county for GCSE results by 2019. That enthusiasm was not shared by members of the Children and Young People’s Services Select Committee, who viewed the document on June 17. While approving the ideas laid out in the report, they asked councillor Jeremy Hunt, cabinet member for education and skills, to reconsider whether the targets were achievable.

Improvements were also recorded among students at Key Stage 5, with a rise in the number earning three A-Levels and a rise in the number of A-Level points earned per pupil.

Despite the improvements, both results still saw West Sussex floundering in the lower quartile.

The ‘Future West Sussex Plan 2015-2019’ was produced as part of the council’s work to improve its relationship with schools and ensure youngsters were ready for school and then ready for work once their education was over.

As well as improving GLD in the early years and aiming for the top with GCSEs, two other goals were set.

One was to become the top-ranked county for Key Stage 2 achievement by 2019 and the other was to take the number of schools rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted into the upper quartile by 2019.

As part of the council’s efforts to improve its working relationship with schools, an education and skills forum has been proposed.

Replacing the current schools forum and run independent of the council, the education and skills forum would include headteachers, governors and representatives from colleges and academies.

Its remit would see it advising Mr Hunt on matters such as school standards and performance, school organisation and admissions and the wellbeing of children.

A council spokesman said: “The very positive developments started this month will ensure that together we agree and work on challenging ambitions to address the areas that we jointly identify as priorities for pupils in our schools.

“The cabinet is currently reviewing the scale of these ambitions, and we have plans in process to continue the good work already undertaken in schools to improve outcomes.”

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