The Camden Education Commission was set up in May 2011 by Camden Council and the head teachers of Camden schools to explore how they should respond to the changing landscape of English education. Its final report “Making Camden the best place for Education” was published in December 2011.
When the Commission was established, Angela Mason, then deputy leader of Camden Council, said the authority wanted to re-examine its role in education to make sure that it was giving children and young people the best start in life.
“Like many other areas of the public sector, our education system is going through a time of radical change,” she said. “By taking the unique step of establishing this commission, we can engage with not just the community, but the children and young people, allowing them the opportunity to shape the long-term vision for education in Camden.”
The Commission was chaired by Sir Mike Tomlinson and the other two commissioners were myself and Geethika Jayatilaka, a former lead member for children’s services. Our starting point was that it was widely recognised that Camden Education had great strengths, but that it now needed to raise its game even further to face the significant challenges that lie ahead.
We started work in May 2011, taking evidence from schools, local employers, parents, children and young people in Camden, and produced a substantial interim report in September, which included an appendix of data about Camden.
Taking account of the responses to the interim report, the Commission continued its work in the autumn term and focused on the key areas that had emerged as most pressing. These priorities are reflected in our final report.
At the centre of that report is our proposal for a new partnership for improvement, which we have called the Camden Partnership for Educational Excellence (CPEE). We suggest that this partnership, which would incorporate the existing Children’s Trust, should bring together all key providers and partners to move Camden education forward and make better use of resources to achieve ambitious goals for the children and young people of Camden.
The report then proposes a number of actions, most of which we suggest should be taken forward by the CPEE. The first involves partners being invited to sign up to shared ambitions, including some challenging targets for improving key outcomes for children and young people, to be reviewed annually and reported on every six months.
Then we make some proposals for enrichment activities to broaden pupils’ experiences beyond the formal curriculum, involving a rich array of world-leading partner institutions, including museums and universities, in and around Camden.
We go on to make some specific proposals about early years provision, which is under particular pressure at the moment, and 14-19 provision in Camden, which struck us and some of its major stakeholders as less than fit for purpose in the current context.
We then address the needs of vulnerable children and make proposals for greater engagement between schools and parents/carers. Parents told us of some serious concerns about place planning and admissions in different parts of the borough and about transition between different phases of education, so we make some proposals about how these might be addressed.
Finally, we offer some suggestions about improving the training and development of the education workforce in Camden and ensuring that all Camden schools demonstrate high standards in school governance.
If our recommendations are to be implemented, it will require commitment from Camden Council, schools and a whole range of other stakeholders.
On the day after publication of the final report, the Council Leader made a public announcement at Cabinet to say he welcomed the report and was committed to carrying out our recommendation that the Council establish the Camden Partnership for Educational Excellence, and that this would have an independent chair. At the same time, he said that he was asking officers to prepare proposals for the use of up to £2m to support implementation of the Commission’s recommendations.
Officers have now been asked to consult, particularly with schools, about the final report with a view to bringing recommendations to Cabinet in February for a full and considered response by the Council to the Commission’s work.
The interim and final reports of the Commission can be found at: www.camden.gov.uk/ccm/content/education/schools/camden-education-commission.en?page=2
Professor Geoff Whitty CBE
for the Camden Education Commission