Although Sheffield schools are still closed for the summer, this week in August is a huge one for Year 13 and Year 11 students.
Last Thursday was the results day for those who have taken their A-Level examinations – my colleagues were busy beavering away in school analysing the results and doing the important job of making sure all those wanted a university place got set up for September.
There is an inherent danger in getting good results with relatively poor funding, of course - the government could argue the city’s schools are doing very well with the money they are already getting and there is not an urgent requirement to flood the band account with the cash we are campaigning for.
It was so pleasing to read reports in Telegraph sister title Sheffield Star about those students who had achieved good results – and to see some of our city’s young people interviewed on national news channels as examples of high achieving people.
Today, it’s the turn of the GCSE students. Thousands of 16-year-olds from across the city will turn up at school, waiting to get exam results that could effectively change the course of their life.
It goes without saying that I wish good luck to each and every one of them, although this is a process that begins in Key Stage 1, requires an awful lot of hard work and has very little to do with luck.
The results gained by individuals today – and by the city’s schools as a whole – owes everything to years and years of hard work by the students themselves and also, of course, the teachers who are guiding them through the learning experience.
Over recent years, the progress made by Sheffield students has been getting better and better, reflecting an increased commitment to student studies and smarter teaching in the classroom.
Once the dust settles on today’s results, the number crunchers will get to grips with what the figures issued today mean for the city’s schools and whether there has been an improvement on last year.
A year ago, education leaders were happy because Sheffield had performed very well against the core cities in England – cities that are comparable to Sheffield.
That this high level of achievement had taken place against a background of under-funding and what can only be described as a hideous bias towards other cities in the north made the results even more remarkable.
What we achieve in Sheffield is quite incredible – we keep ourselves in a comparable position to other cities that have millions of pounds more to spend on education their children.
There is an inherent danger in getting good results with relatively poor funding, of course – the government could argue the city’s schools are doing very well with the money they are already getting and there is not an urgent requirement to flood the band account with the cash we are campaigning for.
That argument, of course, is flawed if we are to have a level playing field where all children in the country are given the same start in life.
Rather than congratulating Sheffield students to doing well with the teaching resources we have, the question being asked should be ‘what could we have achieved for each of our students with the extra cash?’
Could some of the students who didn’t get on to A-Level courses have made it if the city had the same funding as Manchester? Would even more Sheffield students be heading off to university next month if the schools they attended had the same per-pupil funding as Nottingham? Would some of the students who are going to university be heading to universities with better reputations, which in turn could in turn improve their chances of getting the best jobs.
Today is a day when we should rightly be celebrating the students who have done well in their A-Level and GCSE exams at the same time as recognising the success of our schools that allow them to make good progress.
But in the context of the Sheffield crisis in school funding, it is right to keep asking the questions about what difference the funding gap makes for our city.
It may be difficult to put into figures, but there will have been a cost – either in actual figures or in less quantifiable factors such as raised levels in confidence or improved presentation skills.
Sheffield schools could do better during results week and they would do better if they had more money to spend on resources. It’s time for the government to act on getting Sheffield a fairer deal so that the celebrations of success are even larger in future years.