Thursday, September 27, 2007

The education badlands of South Dorset

It appears that education minister Jim Knight has grandly boasted about sending his children to the "the local school. It's probably the least popular school in the area and they have done perfectly well out of it".

Gosh isn't he good.

Lets have a look at the schools in the area,.

All Saints' Church of England School, Weymouth
Below national average in both authorised and unauthorised absenteeism
At GCSE it comes in at 1243 out of 3579 schools in England
64% pass rate, National average 52.9%

Beaminster School
Marginally above national average absenteeism
At GCSE it comes in at 1847 out of 3579 schools in England
54% pass rate, National average 52.9%

The Purbeck School
Marginally above national average absenteeism
At GCSE it comes in at 1666 out of 3579 schools in England
56% pass rate, National average 52.9%

The Wey Valley School
Marginally above national average absenteeism
At GCSE it comes in at 2265 out of 3579 schools in England
46% pass rate, National average 52.9%

So my guess given his description is that his children go to the Wey Valley School, and here is the most recent OFSTED report.

Though large, at 1344 pupils, there were only 11 of ethnic minority at the time of the inspection. Sadly whether one likes it or not this does have an impact on the school, so much so that the report points this out in its first paragraph.

General points,
This is an improving school, which provides a good education for its pupils. The excellent leadership of the headteacher, effectively supported by other senior managers and governors, has brought much improvement. The school provides good value for money. Because teaching is good overall, most pupils make satisfactory progress and for many it is good. This is reflected in the results in the National Curriculum tests and in the GCSE examination, which are above average in comparison with similar schools. Staff work hard to ensure that all pupils are able to participate in the wide range of activities the school offers.
Sounds like a hell hole doesn't it? And I am sure they will be delighted with his comments about it. But that is hardly the point. For somebody enjoying South Dorset, and its homogeneous, low crime and delightful environment to suggest that parents should send their children to the "worst schools" in their area is asking parents to act in dereliction of their duty of care to their own children.

Why do I say this? Because next week my own daughter will be moving from her school, the poorest in the city, to another a few miles away. We have had to take this action for a range of reasons, which I will not bore you with, but suffice to say most of our friends thought we were mad in the first place to send her there, and when events took over they were incredulous that we did not act sooner to remove her. Indeed the general opinion was that we were failing our daughter because we were prepared to risk her development in the local sink school.

Most people in Britain do not have the luxury of having the worst local school described thus,
" The exemplary leadership of the headteacher, with very good support from other senior managers, is ensuring that procedures for monitoring and evaluating the work of the school are being used effectively to improve the quality of education the school provides.
· Good teaching promotes good learning in most lessons. This is well supported by the effective use of assessment to monitor pupils’ progress and set targets for improvement.
· The school has an effective inclusion programme and makes very good provision for pupils with special educational needs.
· Pupils’ learning is enhanced by very good links with the community and a very good range of extra-curricular opportunities.
· Very good provision for physical education and sport promotes above average standards and high levels of enthusiasm for the subject.
· Very good support from the governing body allied to very good financial planning, are ensuring that the school makes the best use of its resources
Mr Knight says ignore local opinion, ignore OFSTED reports (then what the hell are they for?) ignore all advice but go to the school and make your own mind up. Most of us are ill qualified to judge on the short visit that we make to visit various schools. Most of us in fact do look at the league tables, take local soundings and so on.

How else can we get a broad picture?
This attitude is typical of the "I'm alright Jack" school of governmental and ministerial contempt that so distinguishes this government. He personifies the supercilious, holier than thou attitude of a government without the slightest clue about makes people tick. If he wants to let his children down so be it (but of course in Dorset that isn't actually an option) but don't dare lecture the rest of us you prig. Go stand on Nine Barrow Down take a look around and think about what you are saying and suggesting.
Just for once.

Hat tip, The Englishman

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