County failed to speak for schools

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It’s welcome news that so many West Sussex head teachers have pointed out that, compared with most of the rest of the country, West Sussex school pupils are getting a raw deal when it comes to funding (Gazette, April 2).

I hope they go further, and remind the Government that, according to the world-wide Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) scores ,which ministers take much note of in other regards (despite widespread scepticism about their value), the best-performing education systems in Europe, such as Finland, according to PISA, have had much lower pupil-to-teacher ratios than we have, and spend a significantly higher proportion of GDP on education than do we.

Rather than note those two crucial factors, education ministers have instead been bemused by dubiously compiled literacy and maths scores from Shanghai, Hong-Kong, and various points east, allowing them enthusiastically to deplore the fact that pupils here have not reached those splendid heights.

Under Michael Gove notoriously, but also since, that semi-informed view of Asiatic ‘standards’ still rules, to the neglect of the screamingly obvious: that money per pupil, and class-size, are absolutely fundamental.

It’s also a pity, though not entirely surprising, that West Sussex County Council has evidently not protested effectively enough, as such a ridiculously unfair funding disparity developed. County seem not to have had its eye on the ball. But it’s hardly coincidental, as well as being a pity more generally, that the county council’s historic stewardship of local schooling has, in the last few years, been seriously compromised by an eagerness to hand responsibility for local education to ‘independent’ academies and academy chains. So much for ‘localism’.

In writing their important letter, the West Sussex head teachers are taking up a commitment to the local that indeed needs taking up. One hopes they keep going, and that they’re listened to, not least by those in Government with little previously recorded aptitude for listening.

Robert Hull

Elm Grove South

Barnham

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