Now pupils join attack on Gove

Education Secretary Michael Gove
Education Secretary Michael Gove

PUPILS have written to Education Secretary Michael Gove after his controversial attack on East Durham education.

Determined youngsters from Acre Rigg Academy, formerly Acre Rigg Juniors, in Peterlee, have written to the Tory minister, who sensationally branded East Durham’s schools as having low expectations and a lack of ambition.

Mr Gove launched a verbal attack specifically targeting East Durham, saying you can walk into an East Durham school and “smell the sense of defeatism”, much to the fury of local Labour MPs Grahame Morris and Phil Wilson.

But Julie Craggs, headteacher of Acre Rigg Academy, in Acre Rigg Road, said pupils at her school are not defeatist, but positive.

She said: “Our children do have aspirations – you ask any of the children and they know what they want to do.

“We foster this belief that you can be anything that you want to be, you have just got to keep trying.”

Despite a demand by MPs for an apology from Mr Gove he has stood by his stance.

During an education questions session in Parliament on Monday, he said East Durham performs less well than the rest of County Durham and added that it is something that is addressed by Durham County Council.

After being asked a question by Mr Morris about funding for Seaham School of Technology, Mr Gove added: “It is the case that half of the schools in East Durham are rated as ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’, worse than the national average.”

A Department of Education spokeswoman said: “Last year just 80 pupils in East Durham out of more than 1,000 got good grades in the subjects valued by universities and employers.

“Durham County Council have themselves identified educational failure in East Durham. This failure puts a cap on young people’s aspirations and just isn’t good enough.

“The Education Secretary stands by his comments and is determined to do better for the children of East Durham.”

The spokeswoman provided Department of Education performance results which showed that in 2009, the percentage of pupils with five or more GCSEs at A*-C in East Durham was 72 per cent, but the proportion passing English and maths continues to be relatively low compared to the rest of County Durham.

Other statistics showed that the percentage of students achieving the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) is in single figures in five out of the six secondary schools in East Durham.

Ofsted gradings show Dene Community School as “requiring improvement”, The Academy at Shotton Hall rated “outstanding”, Seaham School of Technology “requiring improvement”, Easington Community Science College Community School “good”, Wellfield Community School “inadequate” and St Bede’s Catholic Comprehensive School and Byron College “good”.