Having read the article from the national newspaper this week on education, I feel it important to flag up an issue which may be affecting our schools’ apparent performance and reputation.
I must speak in support of our good local schools, which if you were believe the statistics and the national media are not doing as well as they might.
According to the statistics, Worthing and Shoreham schools are not benefiting from the Pupil Premium so the gap between those who “can” and those who “cannot” is widening in leafy West Sussex.
West Sussex has apparently the low figure of 14 per cent of our pupils on free school meals, an indicator of need, and yet we have 33.4 points in the attainment gap, putting us at the bottom of the league .
As a former teacher of SEN in West Sussex, I was dismayed to hear Ofsted inspectors tell me that they thought we had a problem in the South. We don’t.
My school at the time, now an academy (which is doing well now and was at the time), was subjected to extra inspections because of the high numbers of students with SEN recorded. Like it or not, we, too, have pockets of need.
Even though local schools make sensitive responses and have schemes in place, many parents do not wish to register their children for free school meals, probably because they see it as benefits.
Consequently, the school does not gain its rightful funding. If a child fits the criteria s/he should be given the necessary financial support. It is their right to succeed and free school meals are their right, not a much maligned benefit. We don’t have failing schools here, but maybe we need to mind the gap more closely.