‘Hard questions need to be answered’ over Doncaster’s failing schools

Don Valley MP, Caroline Flint
Don Valley MP, Caroline Flint
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‘Hard questions need to be answered’ about why Doncaster’s schools are among the worst in the country, MP Caroline Flint has warned.

The Don Valley MP told the House of Commons that standards need to improve in both primary and secondary schools in the town as they continue to perform worse than those in neighbouring areas.

She said: “Comparisons with similar neighbourhoods are another good way to show what can be achieved and leave no room for excuses.

“In 2015 in Doncaster, one in three children attended primary schools that were neither good nor outstanding.

“In Barnsley, however, 81 per cent of pupils are in good or outstanding schools.”

Ms Flint added: “As with primary schools, secondary schools in Doncaster must make more progress, with just over a third of students attending a good or outstanding school compared with 79 per cent of pupils in Sheffield.”

Her comments follow Dr Ann Limb and Professor Sir Tim Brighouse being appointed to lead an independent review of Doncaster’s education system in the wake of six of the borough’s secondary schools failing to ensure that at least 40 per cent of their pupils gained at least five C grades at GCSE, including English and maths – the minimum standard demanded by the government.

Ms Flint said: “I am pleased that Mayor Ros Jones recognises the importance of leaving no child in Doncaster behind and we are backing an education commission to address why Doncaster is at the bottom of the attainment league table — hard questions need to be answered.

“So much of education is out of the hands of local authorities, so who do I or concerned parents turn to apart from a regional schools commissioner?”

The MP said there are wider problems affecting educational achievement in the Yorkshire region.

She said: “Yorkshire and the Humber has slipped over the decades from a hardly inspiring seventh out of 10 regions in 1970 to 10th out of 10 in 2013-14.

“In decades gone by, when manual jobs were plentiful, a 16-year-old could go straight from school to work without any or with only a few qualifications — it may have been to a low-paid job, but it was probably a job for life.

“That world no longer exists.

“There were better paid volume jobs in one industry that dominated the town economically and socially. We need the government to understand post-industrial towns in Yorkshire and the north of England such as Doncaster — towns that globalisation seems to have passed by.”

Ms Flint said parents also need to take responsibility for their children’s education.

She said: “Postcodes are a factor, but parents are the most important influence on their children. They shape their world, making many decisions — or not — every week that will have an impact on their child’s development.

“There is no such thing as a perfect parent, but confident and engaged parenting makes a difference.”

She said the Goverment needs to work on attracting more good teachers to work in provincial towns such as Doncaster, offering ‘rewards or incentives’ for those that move there instead of choosing to work in big cities.

Ms Flint said: “This issue is important because life chances should not be determined by someone’s postcode or who their parents are, but in Yorkshire and Humber — and across the UK — there is clearly a hell of a long way to go.”

Schools minister Nick Gibb said the government is ‘sincerely and absolutely committed’ to closing the education gap between the north and south.

He said Sir Nick Weller, the chief executive of the Dixons Academies trust, is to lead a report for the government on how it can go ‘further and faster’ to improve school performance in the north and work with local headteachers to ‘help them to secure sufficient high-quality teachers and system leaders, sponsors and governors’.