PUT your children to bed earlier and make sure they get a proper breakfast.
That’s one of the challenges to parents in Portsmouth as part of a fresh strategy to drive up achievement in schools and improve city education.
In her first interview with The News since her appointment as the council’s director of children’s services, Alison Jeffery says families need to play more of a role in the well-being of their children – and start believing they can secure a great career.
And schools agree ensuring children are ready to learn is a ‘massive issue’ that needs sorting out.
There are issues with support at home, with quite basic stuff. Like getting to bed. We need to change habits at home. Eating good food would make a huge difference.Portsmouth City Council’s director of children’s services, Alison Jeffery
Mrs Jeffery’s message comes ahead of a partnership being launched today which will see academy and state-operated schools in Portsmouth link up and work together to better understand what needs to be done to improve standards.
Schools are in part forming closer ties because the government is starting to wind down council funding to improve individual school improvements.
Mrs Jeffery, who is co-leading the initiative, hopes it will force everyone to up their game – and parents will play their part.
She said: ‘It’s important parents get behind the schools – parents make a fantastic difference.
‘Schools are improving and when parents work with them and make sure their children get the sleep and food they need, we notice the difference.’
She added: ‘There are issues with support at home, with quite basic stuff, like getting to bed.
‘We need to change habits at home. Eating good food would make a huge difference.
‘People need to believe their kids can achieve.
‘We want to support families better to stop them needing social workers – families who are vulnerable.’
Polly Honeychurch is headteacher of Cottage Grove Primary School, in Somers Town, which has signed up to the Portsmouth Education Partnership.
She said: ‘When we look to what we are doing in our schools, people think it’s all about education.
‘But a huge amount of my staff’s time is taken up on social care issues and supporting families to ensure they get their children to school, and children are ready to learn.
‘Because if they haven’t had breakfast first, they are not in a position to learn.
‘It’s a massive issue.’
She added: ‘We are getting more children who don’t eat, who can’t speak properly, can’t sit on a chair or open a book.’
The priorities of partnership, to be unveiled in more detail at the Portsmouth Marriott Hotel today, are;
n Stronger co-ordination of school improvement support and making better use of education leaders.
n Better promotion of teacher recruitment programmes and encouraging top professionals to stay and improve promotion opportunities.
n Leadership development ‘at all levels’.
n Better development of the curriculum.
n Recruiting more volunteers and supporting those already working in schools.
n Better links between multi-academy trusts that operate in the city.
Mrs Jeffery said: ‘Portsmouth needs to do better. And Ofsted has been clear about that in their inspection.
‘Our results aren’t good enough, but it’s more than that. It’s about building on schools as well. Because there are some really good schools in the city.
‘The partnership is designed to help us share that good practice.’
Partnership to ‘focus on raising standards’
A WHITE paper has confirmed that the government wants to see more schools moving towards a ‘self-improving system’ and look to be taken over by academies.
At the same time, local councils are seeing their responsibilities and funding to help improve schools taken away from next year.
But the needs of children and families, particularly those who are vulnerable, need to be met. That’s why the Portsmouth Education Partnership is being created.
A consultation report into the plan, signed by a wave of local education leaders, says: ‘The partnership will have a clear focus on raising standards and improving educational outcomes for children and young people in Portsmouth.
‘But it also offers opportunities for collective action on a range of areas of work that will support this objective.’
Cottage Grove Primary headteacher Polly Honeychurch said: ‘With the government agenda of academisation and the possible fragmentation in the city with different providers coming in, I am very keen that because we are such a small city that is so densely populated, we still get uniformity across the city.
‘Wherever they are educated, these children are still Portsmouth children.’