11 February 2015

A drive to boost performance in schools and improve outcomes for young people has been announced by Northamptonshire County Council.

The Race To The Top strategy aims to make Northamptonshire one of the highest performing counties for education by 2020 by encouraging schools to strive for excellence.

£1million fund

Yesterday’s Cabinet agreed to invest £1million in the programme to turn around performance in under-performing schools. Chancellor George Osborne is expected to recognise this commitment to school improvement in a speech tomorrow (Thursday).

Council leader Jim Harker said: “We are no longer prepared to accept any school that is failing our pupils and as a county council we are determined to take action to tackle this.

“That is why, at the end of this month, we will be formally launching our Race To The Top initiative which will identify under-performing schools and encourage all of our schools to do more for our pupils.

“By 2020, we will aim to be the best performing county for education.”

Good practice

Top-performing schools will be asked to share good practice, grants and bursaries will be offered to schools seeking to improve, and schools will work with businesses to provide mentoring and work placement opportunities.

The strategy will establish a Northamptonshire model of educational excellence, which includes:

  • Using the latest research on pupil performance to create a new format for the school day, looking at start times, number of breaks and longer days
  • Setting uncompromising targets for all pupils
  • Delivering good and outstanding teaching, particularly in science, technology, engineering and maths to improve future employment prospects
  • Working with voluntary and independent organisations to provide after-school clubs based on excellence in sport, culture and work-readiness

An innovative Strategic Education and Skills Partnership Board will be created to lead the programme, bringing together education and business leaders.

Race To The Top has been prepared with collaboration with the Department for Education and has three main strands:

  1. To identify and intervene in schools across the county which are judged to be failing or in need of improvement. These schools will be given time to produce improvement plans, with a promise of local authority intervention if they fail to improve.
  2. An invitation to all schools to apply for a share of the £1million improvement fund for projects to improve young people’s aspirations. The bids will be assessed by a panel, including representatives from the business sector via Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership and Northampton University, and the Regional Schools Commissioner.
  3. Sixteen new schools will be needed in the county over the next 12 years and the council will be looking for a number of top quality sponsors, with clear track records of success, to collaborate with the LEA in providing these schools.

'Best in the country'

Cllr Matt Golby, Cabinet Member for Learning, Skills & Education, said: “Race To The Top will be launched at the end of the month, with a tight programme and the aim to raise academic achievement of the young people in the county from below average to amongst the best in the country within the next three years.

“We will be working closely with the Department for Education and hope that additional funding will be made available from the government to help ensure its success.”