COME and see for yourself.
That is the message today to Michael Gove after the Education Minister caused uproar by saying he could “smell the defeatism” in East Durham schools.
Headteachers have been supported by pupils as they reacted to Mr Gove’s claims that schools in Easington have a lack of ambition.
They say he would see their level of passion and determination if he took the time to make his first visit to the former mining area.
They believe his views fly in the face of fact, and are united in calling them “disappointing.”
Ofsted inspectors have previously praised the area’s comprehensives for their standards, and helping students fulfil and build on their potential, with some of the best results they have ever seen recorded in August.
Careers in medicine, engineering, volcanology, fashion journalism, land management and the RAF are among those in the sights of students who completed their GCSEs last year, with many going on to universities, including Oxford and Cambridge.
Toni Spoors is headteacher of Easington Academy, which saw 68 per cent of last summer’s students gain five or more A* to C grades, including English and maths, an improvement of 30 per cent in the past four years.
“This does not suggest a lack of ambition,” she told the Echo.
“But the group most insulted by Mr Gove’s comments must be the students themselves, who, I can assure Mr Gove, are bright, ambitious and, according to Ofsted, are ‘motivated to work hard and rise to the high expectations of the headteacher and staff, because they have been convinced they will succeed’.
“Mr Gove is welcome to visit this school at any time and judge for himself whether there is a lack of ambition amongst the students and staff at Easington.”
She added: What I find most disappointing about Mr Gove’s comments is their sweeping generalisation, and his apparent willingness to categorise a whole area as lacking in ambition.
“We are told, on a fairly regular basis, the importance of Ofsted inspections.
“Yet Mr Gove, or his advisors, would appear not to have read these reports, the most recent of which judged this school to be good with outstanding features.”
Luke Newby, 14, is on Seaham School of Technology’s student council and also offered Mr Gove a tour of the school, which saw 57 per cent of its GCSE students achieve five or more A* to C grades in the summer.
He said: “There is no defeatism in this school. I believe these comments are a disgrace and I don’t understand how Mr Gove can make them without seeing every single school in East Durham.”
Headteacher David Shield added: “It’s clear there is nothing in the claim that there is a lack of ambition.”
He said Seaham was in the top 30 schools in England for the value added score, a key Government measurement of the students’ achievements, compared to what they were expected to gain in results.
Paul McKenna, headteacher of St Bede’s School and Bryon Sixth Form College in Peterlee, said: “At Byron Sixth Form College, our students achieve average grades of ABB, which is above Durham and national averages.
“Our students consistently go on to universities of their choice, and we regularly receive letters from these institutions informing us of our students’ degree and postgraduate results.”