Barnsley pupils outstrip national exam performance, new figures reveal

Challenge: Barnsley Council chief executive Diana Terris
Challenge: Barnsley Council chief executive Diana Terris
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Pupil achievement in Barnsley has moved ahead of national figures in many areas during 2018, new figures reveal, with the rate of improvement for some doubling the progress made nationally.

Barnsley’s educational performance has traditionally lagged behind the nation but years of special effort from both Barnsley Council and the community of schools in the borough now appears to be paying off, with statistics for 2018 revealing a crop of positive results.

They include the number of children at the end of their primary school education achieving expected results in reading, writing and maths rising to 64 per cent from a previous figure of 59 per cent – a result which both doubles the national average improvement and also puts the town on an equal footing with national performance.

The progress made by children moving between key stages one and two at primary schools is better than the national average and those leaving secondary education with GCSE grade four in the two English subjects and maths is now 61 per cent, ahead of the national figure of 59 per cent.

Those figures are a result of work which has, in recent years, included a complete overhaul of the borough’s secondary education with a network of new schools and widespread improvement to the primary schools which feed them.

However, Coun Tim Cheetham, the council’s education spokesman told colleagues on the ruling Cabinet that despite the improvements, Ofsted ratings for schools were not showing the same upward trend.

“There is a massive disconnect between Ofsted rankings of schools and attainment,” he said.

“Attainment has gone up and up and up.”

The progress has been made in the face of funding difficulties, with national funding formulas meaning the council has fared badly compared to similar authorities elsewhere for the amount of cash it has been allocated on a pupil by pupil basis.

Coun Margaret Brough told the meeting: “Throughout the last few years, Barnsley has been improving where others have been dropping back and I think we need to make more of that.

“One of the reasons that can happen is because of the relationship we have with schools.”

Chief Executive Diana Terris added: “It is about our relationship with the schools. We have put in place a challenge system. They go into each other’s schools and challenge each other.

“They work very hard together.”

Despite the improvements, there are still areas which need further work, including the performance of boys throughout their school lives and the progress made by pupils in reading, writing and maths at key stage one, during their early primary education.

Rates of unauthorised absence and numbers of exclusions in secondary schools also need further attention, councillors heard.