A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

How does he know?

The chief executive of the Independent Schools Council has had a big rant about how useless state schools are today.

Er... how does he know given that he neither works in nor uses the state sector?

Of course there are some failing state schools but there are also plenty that are huge success stories - here in inner-city Hackney we now have both city academies (all with comprehensive entries, mixed and non-denominational) and non-academy comprehensives that are over-subscribed and getting glowing inspection reports. The primary school where I'm a governor has exactly the kind of intake from disadvantaged backgrounds that this man is so sneering about (in fact it probably has one of the 1% most deprived intakes of any school in the country) yet has just been ranked as "an outstanding school" by OFSTED.

And why is the Guardian giving front page coverage to what is basically a not-very-well-disguised advertising campaign - his message being "boo, state schools are scary and nasty, your child might have to sit next to someone poor or common, perhaps it's infectious? Why not spend £20k a year on putting your sprogs through one of the institutions I represent?"

57 Comments:

Blogger oldandrew said...

He may not work in state schools. I do. Everything he was reported to have said was 100% spot on correct about what is happening.

The sad reality is that state schools tolerate the most appalling behaviour. Verbal abuse of teachers, physical intimidation and refusal to work is absolutely normal. Behaviour that once would have happened only in the most out of the way places in schools is now happening in front of teachers. Courses are dumbed down on an almost yearly basis and there is nothing resembling an academic ethos left in these schools.

The simple fact is that sending your child to the local comprehensive, if you had an alternative, is close to being an act of child neglect. The question is when will the left stop fussing about The Holy Principle of making sure that all children go to rubbish schools and accept that it's time to start caring about how the education system fails and brutalises working class children.

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Teaching Blog at: http://oldandrew.edublogs.org
Latest entry: 31/5/2008

8:54 pm, May 31, 2008

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Andrew I don't doubt that there are state schools where the behaviour you cite is the case, but that isn't universal - it certainly isn't the case in any of the city academies I know of, which are state schools and comprehensive but have very strict disciplinary codes. Given the catchment areas for the city academies here in Hackney it suggests problems of discipline are to do with weak headteachers rather than something instrinsic to the state sector or to children from particular backgrounds.

9:01 pm, May 31, 2008

 
Blogger Merseymike said...

It depends on the school....the state schools in this area are both good and popular

9:10 pm, May 31, 2008

 
Anonymous Rich said...

There are lots good state schools but there are a lot of bad ones as well.

The problem is that too much time is spent on measuring a schools performance rather than dealing with the fact that some schools have young people that are struggling with learning.

First of all class sizes need to be smaller and those kids that are struggling with the Rs should get extra help from advanced teachers.

Performance of the individual should be measured and not the school. There needs to more less emphasis on exams and more on the quality of the education they receive. People go to school to learn and not just to come out with 9 meaningless GCSEs.

There is also the issue of discipline. Smaller class sizes will help this but young people need to learn that the teacher deserves respect.

I send all my kids to private school as the local schools are full of immigrants. How can children learn when half the class don't even speak english.

9:22 pm, May 31, 2008

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Rich

the private school I had an Assisted Place at was full of what you would call "immigrants" (Hong Kong Chinese) who arrived with very poor English. I understand the same school now gets a large number of pupils from the Russian "new rich" so sending your kids to private school won't protect them from contact with foreigners.

I feel sorry for your kids if they are having to hear this kind of vile prejudice at home. They might benefit from meeting people from different cultures and learning not to hate, fear or despise them but gaining some understanding of how diverse the world is.

The state school where I'm a governor has one of the highest rates of English as a second language of any London school, yet gets great results. If you had bothered to check you would know that schools with large numbers of pupils in this category get extra funding and specialist teaching assistants to deal with the issues involved.

I actually feel sorry for you as well because you are clearly a profoundly ignorant and prejudiced man.

9:35 pm, May 31, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your report on the state of Hackney Schools is just not an accurate picture of what is taking place.

They are a disaster. Just read the tables and the Ofsted reports.

There is one exception: the Stoke Newington Community School. And there are special circumstances operating to explain why this is the case; in particular, a determined band of articulate middle classes in the catchment area.

But that, and that's the very best that Hackney can do, is just above the national average standard.

You've been found out desperately trying to gloss over the state of the Labour Party. I assume because Hackney is a Labour-held borough you are presenting a similar glossy view of its educational system.

The real position is exactly as "Oldandrew" says.

To regurgitate an old jibe. If Hackney's educational system is so good why does Dianne Abbott, the local MP, send her kid to a fee-paying school. Moreover, when asked for the reason for that decision, does she cite exactly the reasons given by "Oldandrew".

10:16 pm, May 31, 2008

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I didn't like her decision and, with the majority in her local Labour Party voted to censure her.

Diane says if her son was 11 now the schools have improved so much she would take a different decision.

Did you read the OFSTED report on Mossbourne School which serves the most deprived bits of central Hackney from the site of the once notorious Hackney Downs Schools? They say they are "enthralled" by pupils at an "outstanding" school.

There aren't any GCSE results yet from the academies because their first cohorts of kids haven't been there long enough, but I suggest you read Dave Hill's blog (Claptonian) to see what a Hackney parent thinks about our fantastic new schools.

I can only report the enthusiasm with which parents I canvass on council estates talk about how keen they are to get their kids into Hackney secondary schools, and that we even had a demonstration by parents at a council meeting demanding we let their kids into schools in the borough.

10:27 pm, May 31, 2008

 
Anonymous Rich said...

Luke it is this Labour party that shut down our local village school so now all the villages have to send their kids to the nearest town. A wash with people from eastern Europe and the school struggles to cope with the changing numbers and languages of the people they are trying to teach.

So bad is the situation that they have to bring in special language helpers just so they can cope. Yet they don't get any more money from the LEA or central gov. How can a school provide a good education with these pressures. How the hell can schools plan for this?

I've nothing against people from Eastern Europe but some towns have seen a massive influx and our services just can't cope. These are the views of most people Luke and if you don't believe me get out there and start talking to normal hard working Brits.

Too much, Too little planning and over a too shorter period.

And you wonder why people are going to kick you lot out.

10:44 pm, May 31, 2008

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Which county/LEA do you live in? Because I just wanted to check the veracity of your claim that the "Labour party that shut down our local village school" (speaking as someone originally from a village where Tory Kent County Council shut the school).

10:53 pm, May 31, 2008

 
Blogger Quink said...

I get angry when brilliant teachers in flagship Hackney academies are prevented by a stupid, divisive system from sending their own children to the same secondary school - or, in fact, any school in their home borough.

That's what I've seen happen recently: and it's just one example of how Labour confusing the impersonal with the impartial can - and does - rip communities apart.

12:07 am, June 01, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know how the Rear Admiral knows given he was probably privately educated, and his children will have been privately educated at my (the tax payers expense - nothings too good for the officer class...) but what he says is in line with my experience of state education. I guess if I was in Luke's position of ignorance about the reality of state schools's I'd probably try to make a cheap point too, but actually, he is spot on.

12:10 am, June 01, 2008

 
Blogger Silent Hunter said...

I certainly agree with oldandrew!

My kids go to our local comp which has a good reputation and they have done well; however, they could have done a lot better but for the disruption to their education by children from the 'underclasses' whose parents have little care in their own kids upbringing, consistently fail to attend parent teacher meetings and show even less interest in helping their own kids to achieve anything meaningful.

This influx, was due to our local 'Labour' Council, as was, (thankfully) forcing our school to accept kids transported from an outlying sink estate, with the predictable results.

The rule of discipline has never touched these kids parents and 'what's taught is what's known' in their case.

We desperately need to give the clever kids a chance to shine without having the drag anchor of the underclass constantly holding them back......which is the position where a majority of comps currently are.

Comprehensive education is a social experiment which has had its day and should be consigned to the drawer of history marked...."why the hell did we do that!"

We need Grammer Schools where ANY bright child can go to on merit rather than ability to pay.

We also need schools to teach less academic kids skills as well as a basic education to give us back our craftsmen and women which we now so clearly lack.
There is nothing wrong in being a plumber or a stonemason as long as you strive to be the best in your field.

This is what Labour get so wrong with their chippy attitude to anyone who demonstrates some intelligence.
How many of those Labour members who went through private and paid for education now seek to deny a similar quality of education to others on the basis of outmoded 'class struggle'

Look at Diane Abbot; who is a prime example of a 'Labour' politician who railed against parents sending their kids to schools outwith the state system but when it comes to her own kids......they're sent to a private, fee paying school.

A classic case of Labour.....Do as we say; not as we Do.

12:28 am, June 01, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave Hill is not a reliable commentator on anything.

Indeed, if anything, he is an appallig and unconvincing apologist for any left-wing cause going. (Just read his recent effort on "Comment is Free").

The Dianne Abbott defence of her decision is ridiculous. As far as I can remember, she contradicted your report on her position with the view that she gave on Desert Island Discs not a month ago.

But who cares. She's irrelevant. Except that the colour of her skin appears to give her, within Hackney's Labour Party, divine powers of explanation and excuse.
The term carpetbagger doesn't really do her justice.

The only school I've noticed of outstanding achievement is the Jewish girls school somewhere around Cazenove Road.

I was walking my bike back from a game of tennis at Springfield Park and I couldn't help but be impressed by the bright and fun-loving gaggles of teenagers we came across on our way up the hill.

IfI ad a daughter that's the school I would want her to go to.

12:30 am, June 01, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can we ever get beyond this auction of claiming to be among the (probably!) x% most deprived boroughs/wards/towns/utopias in the UK? Even Esher could have a claim....
It is too early to assess the academies. Wait until the sixth forms are full. And if they become unruly, the middle classes will move away or spend their money as they see fit. (just as Diane Abbott could have moved away to somewhere more congenial with better schools and still represented her constituency well)
Anyway, what is so special about sending one's kids to a school within the borough boundaries where one lives? Move outside the London bubble and children travel miles to school.

2:44 am, June 01, 2008

 
Blogger oldandrew said...

Given the catchment areas for the city academies here in Hackney it suggests problems of discipline are to do with weak headteachers rather than something instrinsic to the state sector or to children from particular backgrounds.

My point is that weak headteachers are intrinsic to the state sector and to schools serving children from particular backgrounds. As for academies, some are doing well, but this is after they have been freed from the usual pressures to avoid exclusion, the usual methods for appointing headteachers and even allowing forms of selection. Over time they might make a difference if they only replaced bad schools (which I think was the original plan). Most Local Authorities won't risk this and are replacing improving schools instead, and even trying to undermine the schools that are competing with the academies.

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Teaching Blog at: http://oldandrew.edublogs.org
Latest entry: 31/5/2008

8:44 am, June 01, 2008

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Andrew - why are "weak headteachers ... intrinsic to the state sector"? Unless you think there just aren't enough people in the country capable of running a school well, I don't understand why this should be the case.

9:09 am, June 01, 2008

 
Blogger oldandrew said...

Weak headteachers are intrinsic to the state sector because the things that strong headteachers do (like kicking out badly behaved students, cracking down on behaviour, attracting children from surrounding weaker local schools, ignoring malicious complaints from parents, concentrating on the academic side of schooling, side-stepping bats-arsed iniatives) are deeply unpopular with the education bureaucracies, both local and national. "Don't rock the boat" is the first commandment of school management. "Swallow your smoke" (i.e. don't admit to problems) is the second. Successful heads are actively despised by the greater mass of headteachers. It's hard to think of a good headteacher to whom the word "controversial" can't be attached. (And I bet that applies to your favoured example of the Mossbourne Academy.)

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Teaching Blog at: http://oldandrew.edublogs.org
Latest entry: 31/5/2008

9:27 am, June 01, 2008

 
Anonymous Rich said...

Tent College in Derbyshire is a brilliant school and that's where all three of my kids have gone to school.

It's about 30 miles from my village but it is the best school in the area.

Luke talks about results but it is exactly that word that is failing every child currently in state education. The results are meaningless in the real world.

11:50 am, June 01, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My My "Rich" does get around.

In one thread he is living in a Midlands town, another N E London and now a Derbyshire Village !

Is there some poor sole who has time and energy to map his wanderings ?

GW

2:16 pm, June 01, 2008

 
Blogger Silent Hunter said...

oldandrew:

Excellent come back at Luke! :O)

Luke!

Have you read Ken Leninspart in Private Eye?

It's you! LOL

2:56 pm, June 01, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oldandrew is so obviously speaking the unvarnished truth about what's happening in schools.

Surely it needs to get a wider audience on Education Guardian or suchlike.

3:50 pm, June 01, 2008

 
Blogger Duncan Hall said...

It isn't the unvarnished truth.

I'm fond of Andrew, and I don't doubt he's experienced some examples of bad schools and bad heads in his career, but some of his apparent 'truths' and 'rules' have to be challenged.

His comment about sending children to the local comp being close to neglect is a disgraceful comment; hugely offensive. If anybody asked me where in my neighbourhood they should send their kids, I would suggest any of the 5 or 6 excellent local comprehensive schools, and I would certainly say NOT the two local selective grammar schools.

The person praising grammar schools elsewhere on the thread - you are simply incorrect. High achievers do just as well in comprehensives as they do in grammar schools - league tables don't show it, grammar schools only have the higher achievers, but it's quite simply the case; academically weaker pupils do better at comprehensives than at the generality of private schools, where they are often kept out of examinations altogether. The effect grammar schools do have is on taking academic pupils out of comprehensives (and therefore making them more like the sorts of state schools Andrew caricatures). Indeed the sort of 'good headteacher' Andrew praises has precisely the same effect on neighbouring schools, and they are not qualities I recognise as good school leadership (not all of them anyway - I agree with some of Andrew's points).

It's terribly important that this demonisation of comprehensive education is challenged, and proved to be incorrect. Because comprehensive education is still the ideal, and where it is made to work it is phenomenally better than the alternatives.

4:21 pm, June 01, 2008

 
Blogger oldandrew said...

Sorry that you are offended, Duncan, but it's the simple truth. If you cared about a child and you know the score about your local schools you are highly unlikely to send them to the local comprehensive. If you ever have children I'm sure you will find yourself in the exact same situation Diane Abbott found herself in. Of course a very able child can be protected from some of the worst consequences of the system but let's not pretend that they aren't more than likely to lose out. Even if their wasn't an academic issue, would you send your child to a school where they could be hospitalised by another student, and then on return from hospital be put back in lessons with that student? Would you send your child to a school where their peers would tell them they have to "fight the Pakis" to be accepted? Would you send your child to a school where they will be told flat-out that maths isn't an important subject, that they should only do three GCSEs, and that they'll be encouraged to go to a sixth form that doesn't do A-levels? How about a school where they could be victimised for reading books? Or doing homework? Or knowing the meaning of a long word? How does the easy availability of knives and drugs affect your choice?

And you know I'm not saying this because I don't support the comprehensive ideal or because I don't care about the kids in these schools. Pretending the education system is working, or pretending that it is the effective schools that are undermining the ineffective ones, is not going to save comprehensive education it's going to destroy it. The collective denial on the left about this issue is little more than an advert for the Tory party. When this issue came up in the 2005 election campaign, Labour made promises to look into it. Then it was buried. Do you think they can get away with that again?

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Teaching Blog at: http://oldandrew.edublogs.org
Latest entry: 31/5/2008

4:52 pm, June 01, 2008

 
Anonymous Mossbourne Gestapo said...

Mossbourne School is a selective school even if they say it is not

5:56 pm, June 01, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For my money, oldandrew speaks as someone who has experienced what is taking place. He has spent some time observing and analysing that experience. Go and read his website.

I don't believe Duncan Hall has that experience. All his statements are predicated on an ideology about comprehensive education.

True, it is not necessary to have experience to take a view.

But it helps.

5:57 pm, June 01, 2008

 
Blogger Duncan Hall said...

I entirely acknowledge Andrew's experience. And he writes about it very entertainingly. Nevertheless, I disagree with him, and not based on ideology, but based on my own educational experiences. (Education and Families are the two things we all have an experience-based opinion on after all!) As it happens, I'm an FE College lecturer; when Andrew and his colleagues are finished with their charges, they come on to me, and I've taught them at a wide variety of levels, from a very wide variety of schools. And that experience contributes to my view.

Of course, like Andrew's, it is a view based on a limited number of educational institutions.

I am by no means suggesting every school I've had contact with are perfect - far from it, in fact - but I don't recognise the dystopia Andrew writes about, though I have to assume he has been unlucky enough to find a few a schools of that ilk to employ him.

6:32 pm, June 01, 2008

 
Blogger oldandrew said...

All I can do, Duncan, is point out the rather obvious fact that I'm not exactly isolated from the experiences of other teachers or what goes on in other schools (let's face it, that's an absolute preoccupation of mine). I'm really not going out on a limb in what I describe. You must have noticed how often the response to my blog is one of recognition.

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Teaching Blog at: http://oldandrew.edublogs.org
Latest entry: 31/5/2008

7:08 pm, June 01, 2008

 
Blogger Duncan Hall said...

Everyone will have a school horror story or two, just like everyone has a hospital horror story, or a restaurant horror story; I don't find it surprising that people recognise some of the problems and scenarios you recount. I recognise some of them myself. I reach different conclusions, however.

7:58 pm, June 01, 2008

 
Blogger oldandrew said...

The obvious implication of that is to suggest that when your experiences and your ideology conflict then you'd sooner believe your ideology was right and your experiences were all flukes.

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Teaching Blog at: http://oldandrew.edublogs.org
Latest entry: 31/5/2008

8:18 pm, June 01, 2008

 
Blogger Duncan Hall said...

Not really, Andrew. I have come across poor management in a lot of different areas without making the leap to turn it into a rule or principle (I realise that's with not being a mathematician).

As you know, I disagree with several of your pedagogical theories; but I do recognise some of the problems you relate; my analysis suggests different causes and solutions. It's not a case of my experience and ideology clashing; I guess it's that one's political analysis is a prism through which we all view our experiences - you too, believe it or not!

8:29 pm, June 01, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As far I am concerned the absolutely ball-breaking proof which supports oldandrew's view is the decisions of parents.

In North London, where I live, there is a de facto apartheid system of secondary education.

The white middle-classes either go the the private sector, are bussed out to the suburbs, or the whole family ups sticks and moves to the sticks.

Schools are left to contain predominantly BME kids. That is what you witness when you see schools turning out at 4pm.

Dianne Abbott isn't the only example of this flight from the comprehensive system. The most famous example is obviously the Blair's.

Emily Thornberry, MP for Islington, followed suit with her children, which in her case meant shipping them out each from Islington to Barnet, a white suburb.

You would consider these people would all be well-motivated, in terms of subscription to principles of comprehensive education, to support that system.

I suspect that just like oldandrew that don't see an entertainment at all rather a horror show.

8:41 pm, June 01, 2008

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

The Blairs didn't fly from the comprehensive system. Cherie is a devout Catholic and they sent their kids to a Catholic Comprehensive. There isn't one in the borough they lived in.

8:49 pm, June 01, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're incorrigible.

There is St Aloysius College on Highgate Hill, five minutes up on the bus from Islington. It is Catholic.

Of course, it was once a high-performing grammar hot-housing kids from the poor Irish (I know; I went there).

Now it's a straightforward bog-standard comp with discipline problems - of a sort that oldandrew uses as entertainment material, according to Duncan Hall.

Incorrigible because you know as well as I do that the religious factor can be a useful tool used by the conniving middle-classes for negotiating out of bog-standard comps.

As we know, courtesy of that immaculate conception up at the Queen's gaff in Scotland, Cherie's obedience to Catholic teaching varies inversely according to expedience and very possibly physical pleasure.

10:16 pm, June 01, 2008

 
Blogger Duncan Hall said...

Without getting onto specific individuals - it's none of my business - the combination of lazy Daily Mail 'bog standard' demonisation and middle-class parents listening to it and trying to keep their kids out of schools DOES have a negative impact on schools. It takes the edge off excellent schools, it pushes struggling schools towards 'failing' status.

People choosing to send their kids elsewhere does not prove your view - it is something of a self-fulfilling prophesy.

I don't know what point 'anon' wants to make about my use of the word 'entertaining'. I'm sure Andrew intends his writing to be entertaining, and it wasn't meant critically - of course he's making serious points as well (even though I disagree with them).

One serious point Andrew makes is that people need to take school discipline seriously and not pretend that it isn't a real problem, or that it's all about not employing the 'correct' teaching methods. I agree with him about that. However, I feel that blanket demonisations of comprehensive education, or various 'iron rules' and 'holy principles' detracts from that job. It forces people who value comprehensive education, oppose selection and KNOW THE BLANKET DEMONISATIONS TO BE UNTRUE FROM THEIR OWN EXPERIENCE onto the defensive.

10:30 pm, June 01, 2008

 
Blogger Merseymike said...

Once again London appears to be different to everywhere else. Perhaps that is why private school attendance is so very much higher there?

10:39 pm, June 01, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

“the combination of lazy Daily Mail 'bog standard' demonisation and middle-class parents listening to it”

Here from my Olympian position, very close to other elders of Mount Guardian, it is an accepted wise and solemn cliché of our times that the combination of “lazy” and “Daily Mail” is a suitably agreeable trigger phrase which will secure my bona fides with colleagues of NUT persuasion.

It is an undeniable and ineluctable truth that the said organ reduces debate to simplistic and mindless caricatures much as I have just done by coincidence with that my simplistic and mindless signifier “demonisation”.

Of course, even the middle classes cannot decode and deconstruct that social phenomena called a “comp”.

They are mere mortals in the cave gazing at the shadows on the wall, hapless victims of dreams and false consciousness – although I would agree that empirical knowledge gained from exposure of their children to the real possibility of bog-standard GBH at the local comp has forced troublesome re-evaluations of ideological positions. (Fuck this for a game of soldiers. We're off)

Note: I am in complete agreement with my NUT colleagues that we will adopt a position of opposition to outsiders knowing what is going on in our schools on the grounds that such knowledge could disrupt learning outcomes. As you know, we have unsuccessfully resisted disclosure on comparative attainment but we remain confident that we can fabricate suitable apologies, excuses and justifications for failure. (Fingers crossed that the Conservatives don't get in before I retire and the shit hits the fan)

4:32 pm, June 02, 2008

 
Blogger oldandrew said...

I guess it's that one's political analysis is a prism through which we all view our experiences - you too, believe it or not!

My point is that when I saw the reality I changed my views on the issue. I'm beginning to doubt whether you can do that. Yo do seem to be implying that what I've seen in front of me almost every day of my teaching career is actually just a myth invented by the Daily Mail and believed by the gullible. I don't need the Daily Mail to tell me this country's state comprehensives generally aren't fit for purpose. And you know I don't say this to encourage middle class parents to disown the system or to argue for a return to grammar schools. You can look for various ways to interpret the educational disaster this Britain is suffering, but the point is to change it.

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Teaching Blog at: http://oldandrew.edublogs.org
Latest entry: 31/5/2008

7:50 pm, June 02, 2008

 
Anonymous will s said...

1) Schools in Tory councils are literally falling down. Has Hackney and other trendy metropolitan councils received a well above fair share of funding?
2) The approach to education in Hackney seem to be fairly small-c conservative. If the ILEA and lefties hadn't screwed the schools up in the first place then they wouldn't have required fixing. And don't blame Thatcher - in the 70's and 80's and into the 90's the left always had control at LEA and school level. But being a leftie means no apologies for anything ever.

2:07 pm, June 03, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was a time, believe it or not, when Hackney, the poorest borough in London, had some of the best schools in the city.

Harold Pinter for one is a product of Hackney Downs School.

Then Labour got comp ideology.

I think Hackney Downs in its comp reincarnation is in special measures or is closed down. All of its schools, with the exception of Stoke Newington Community and a Jewish secondary school, are disaster areas without exception.

The Stoke Newington Community School is a success since it turn out A - C results just above the national average. The Jewish school is up in the top 10% of the nation's performance.

3:33 pm, June 03, 2008

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

You are a couple of years out of date. Hackney Downs, Kingsland and Homerton which were the 3 worst secondary schools have all been shut. There are a total of 5 city academies either open, opening or being built.

The problem with Hackney Downs, Kingsland and Homerton was not that they were comprehensives, it was that the old ILEA used to pair up boroughs to provide a mix of boys and girls and mixed schools. When Hackney became an LEA in 1990 it inherited girls schools that were OK but Homerton which was a boys only school and Hackney Downs and Kingsland which although on paper mixed were very heavily boys rather than girls due to their being a over provision of girls-only alternatives in the borough. These 3 schools went on to develop immense behaviourable problems and went into a downward spiral, unable to attract parents and good staff.

The city academies seem to have broken that cycle.

In the case of Stoke Newington School (a comprehensive) demographic changes and a series of very strong Heads seem to have made a success of a school which when called Clissold School was reputedly the worst in the borough.

3:43 pm, June 03, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I stand corrected on that because I'm a bit of a lazy B who who didn't bother to check.

Stoke Newington School has a mystery formula for its success, IMO.

It's not top quartile nationally but it's above average - and pushing up 2 to 3% a year - which a bit of an extraordinary performance especially because it takes on its share of "challenging" - ok, poor in all senses of the term - pupils.

It is an oddity.

Demographic changes, you say. Translated does this mean there's now a heavy-duty middle class contingent ensconced in Stokey who are simply not going to except a poorly performing school.

"Very strong heads" is cited as the other factor. Well, if you read oldandrew's blog you get the impression the whole system is geared to favour weak heads.

I really wonder about the dynamics of these relationships.

5:17 pm, June 03, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hang on, I looked at the performance of the various Jewish schools in Hackeny.

They are really extraordinary, getting 80% of pupils through A - C, against 50% for Stoke Newington Community School.

5:32 pm, June 03, 2008

 
Anonymous Rich said...

You have to remember that Labour is depriving conservative authorities of funds. This is a well known tactic and was used by Thatcher during her thrown.

When it comes to the general election it's about the party and not local services. This is where Labour will get really burnt.

Labour won't have the funds or the steam to fight an effective election campaign. Yes locally they will fight but it's about the bigger picture.

8:36 pm, June 03, 2008

 
Blogger Duncan Hall said...

Nice use of Marx, Andrew... I'm struggling to see what you're struggling with in terms of what 'I seem to be' saying. I agree that, where things are wrong, the point is to change them. However, differences in interpretation lead to inevitable differences in both diagnosis and proposed remedy.

Okay - it's not just about interpretation: I see an awful lot of excellent practice in state, comprehensive schools which should be praised. I also see quite a lot of crap (but what I consider crap isn't always the same as what you do, and where it is we disagree about the causes - other than bad management, I suppose).

So I don't accept that there is a 'disaster', nor that 'the country's state comprehensives are generally not fit for purpose' (I hate the term 'fit for purpose' - why has it colonised the vocabularies of even those who aren't purveyors of management-bollocks-speak?) That doesn't mean that I'm in denial, or I'm blinded by ideology; nor does it mean that I am discounting your experiences. We're simply not going to agree (your educational ideal is so far removed from my own that we never would) but I would like you to at least partially concede that I'm as entitled to an honest view based on my experiences as you are.

10:41 pm, June 03, 2008

 
Anonymous Lilyofthefield said...

I can state with absolute veracity (although you only have my anonymous word for it) that what oldandrew describes is what goes on in THE MAJORITY of schools I do supply in. Obviously the schools where there tends to be the most staff absence (and thus more work for me) cluster around the bottom of the league tables but the one thing they have in common is that they have completely lost control of the children they attempt to teach.

When you escape from these hellholes into a school where the management has no agenda other than to provide a calm and pleasant working atmosphere in which kids who wish to can work and grow, and kids who don't can sling their hooks - and they are certainly not all leafy-lane, suburban ex-Grammars - you see how things could be in sink comps if only you had the support of the parents and sanctions that actually bite. At my current dump, we have.... detentions. That's it. Sometimes there's a fixed-term exclusion (or mini-break) as the kids call them) but otherwise they choose if they turn up to detentions or not and are supported by their parents in their choice.

As the school has a "no permanent exclusions" policy, one this LA seems pretty fond of, and two overpaid members of SMT whose sole job is to enforce it, it is no surprise that the tail is wagging the dog.

5:03 pm, June 04, 2008

 
Blogger Duncan Hall said...

This debate may be better conducted on Andrew's blog, rather than Luke's, but where would you propose people who were permanently excluded go? Somebody has to teach them somewhere.

(I have actually taught some permanently excluded pupils - because one place they end up is at FE colleges as 14/15 year-olds in groups of older students. It's actually tended to work okay - but in each case I've found the pupils to be perfectly human, and have managed to find a way for them to gain some interest in their learning - and I'm no expert in that field, being a terribly old-fashioned academic teacher!!)

Permanent exclusions might make life easier in the one school, but their impact on the family, the child and other schools has to be considered. Very high levels of exclusion would suggest that a school was out of control rather than in it.

6:40 pm, June 04, 2008

 
Blogger oldandrew said...

That doesn't mean that I'm in denial, or I'm blinded by ideology; nor does it mean that I am discounting your experiences.

That's precisely what you keep doing.

We're simply not going to agree (your educational ideal is so far removed from my own that we never would) but I would like you to at least partially concede that I'm as entitled to an honest view based on my experiences as you are.

You are entitled to your view. I just retain the right to observe that it is not based on the reality of what is going on in our education system.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Teaching Blog at: http://oldandrew.edublogs.org
Latest entry: 1/6/2008

8:01 pm, June 04, 2008

 
Blogger oldandrew said...

This debate may be better conducted on Andrew's blog, rather than Luke's

I can't resist pointing out that I have now set up a forum on my blog so readers can start discussions.

but where would you propose people who were permanently excluded go? Somebody has to teach them somewhere.

I never really get this argument. These kids usually aren't being taught where they are, so being excluded is hardly going to damage their learning, it might even save it.

8:53 pm, June 04, 2008

 
Anonymous Lilyofthefield said...

Duncan: yes, I agree, as I thought I'd made clear in my first paragraph: the school has lost control of the children. Possibly getting two or three in a new environment has been good for them, and I daresay getting a new teacher who hasn't had the pleasure of their company for the previous three or four years is a positive thing; but having those two or three amongst 29 others, half of whom will be on SA or SA+ for behaviour or learning difficulties, or new to England and to English, makes their disruptive behaviour very much harder to manage.

Most of these extremes of behaviour do not need to be managed in a Special School or (will they bring them back? Excludees could go there) Approved School. They are well within the pupil's own control. Many misbehave simply because they can with impunity. It only needs the balance tipping in favour of the game's not being worth the candle to bring about a miraculous transformation in the behaviour of the many. There will still be those who can't help themselves, as there always has been, but they are so much easier to handle in small numbers.

I don't want to make this personal but it is very disheartening for teachers who are hamstrung by daft no-exclusions policies and weak leadership but who daily try to uphold every child's right to an education in extremely difficult circumstances, to have the fact of their difficulties diminished and denied.

8:59 pm, June 04, 2008

 
Blogger Duncan Hall said...

I just retain the right to observe that it is not based on the reality of what is going on in our education system

But Andrew, it is. If you're going to half-quote Marx at me, maybe I can't half-quote Bevan back. This is my truth; you've told me yours. You are absolutely right: politicians, school managers and educationalists need to formulate policies and put actions into practice to tackle the problems that you (and many others) have encountered in schools (and, I must add, different variations of those problems happen in all manner of schools, not just 'sink' or 'bog standard' comprehensives), where those problems are occuring. If some of the current remedies and orthodoxies are wrong, they should be challenged and replaced. You'll excuse me if I don't always share your proposed remedies and new orthodoxies.

it is very disheartening for teachers who are hamstrung by daft no-exclusions policies and weak leadership but who daily try to uphold every child's right to an education in extremely difficult circumstances, to have the fact of their difficulties diminished and denied.

I'm sorry, lilyofthefield, if you thought that was what I was doing. It certainly wasn't my intention. I agree with your assertion that sometimes a change of scene and change of teachers can do wonders, and the improved attitude experienced by the new teacher should not in anyway call into question the problems faced by the old one.

This is fine if expulsions are few and far between - the ultimate sanction, if you like - but there is a bigger problem if they are more common. Andrew says he doesn't get my argument here, suggesting that 'These kids usually aren't being taught where they are, so being excluded is hardly going to damage their learning, it might even save it."

Again, if it's once in a blue moon, yes it might. But more generally if your 'well-managed', 'good' schools are sending all their difficult pupils somewhere else, what impact does that have on that second place? As you rightly point out in your blog, it is not only the disruptive pupil's education that can suffer, but those of everyone else. It is therefore only a transference of the disruption to another group of learners. Yes, sometimes it might be very clear that part of the problem with a pupil is the environment they are in, and a new one might help. But on other occasions it could just be a case of making a pupil somebody else's problem rather than actually resolving the problem.

10:34 pm, June 04, 2008

 
Blogger jdc said...

"Hang on, I looked at the performance of the various Jewish schools in Hackeny. They are really extraordinary, getting 80% of pupils through A - C, against 50% for Stoke Newington Community School."

This might have a lot to do with the fact that some of them are sufficiently Orthodox communities that the children don't have TVs or Games Consoles at home, and are instead taught to read some books and behave themselves.

I have some concern though, that the best performing one is the girls' school - it's great that they're getting an education, but if they're also being taught that going to university is a waste of time, and they need to aspire to grow up only with a deep knowledge of the Torah and a desire to bear many children in an arranged marriage, it's not necessarily achieving wider social good.

2:06 pm, June 05, 2008

 
Blogger jdc said...

"where would you propose people who were permanently excluded go? Somebody has to teach them somewhere"

Duncan, I don't know. Where would you propose people who commit violent assaults on NHS staff go? Someone has to give them medical treatment somewhere.

2:07 pm, June 05, 2008

 
Blogger Merseymike said...

If they have committed violent assults, then the proson doctor is likely to be the net point of call.

For schools, its slightly different in that children can't choose whether to attend school or not, unlike health care which is largely voluntary. I think that there needs to be far more use of specific units for excluded kids, residential if needs be. It will cost , of course. Or you intervene when the situation first starts to deteriorate? Which to be fair is what the government have been trying to do.

But I'm not at all convinced by the no exclusion at any cost policy.

5:02 pm, June 05, 2008

 
Blogger oldandrew said...

But Andrew, it is. If you're going to half-quote Marx at me, maybe I can't half-quote Bevan back. This is my truth; you've told me yours.

It might be your truth in the sense of not being a deliberate falsehood, it's just not a plausible account of what's happening in secondary schools at the moment.

You'll excuse me if I don't always share your proposed remedies and new orthodoxies.

The issue is not that you aren't accepting my remedies but that you seem to be doubting that the problem exists.

----------------------------------
Teaching Blog here
Latest entry: 1/6/2008

6:49 pm, June 05, 2008

 
Blogger Duncan Hall said...

John - indeed they do. I fear you are merely stating another conundrum rather than proposing a solution to the first one. However, in the case of violent assaults on teachers I think permanent exclusion is the appropriate response (no doubt, like others, I've known much more 'leniant' responses to violent assaults that I wouldn't wish to seek to defend).

The logic, if you're to follow it far enough, is to bring back specific 'naughty child' schools designed to baby-sit the unteachable until they're allowed to leave and be unemployed. Even if I were to accept the logic that such a sanction will improve general discipline so the numbers going into such schools would decrease (and I'm not at all sure I do accept that logic), it doesn't seem like a very realistic, workable or - to be honest - desirable aspiration.

7:15 pm, June 05, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

JDC

Women in Hackney's Jewish schools.

You're probably right.

But about two weeks I just happened to pass a group of 15-year-olds on the street and overheard their conversation.

It was a 10-second take. But they seemed to me to be self-confident, rounded, funny and mature.

I thought at the time to myself that that's what any school should be producing ideally.

You can also see around Stamford Hill what appear to be very young women with small children who've obviously adopted an orthodox lifestyle (They've shaven their hair off and wear wigs for some reason).

That's a bit frightening and sad.

9:15 pm, June 05, 2008

 
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