1369 respond to Stoke-on-Trent school terms consultation

Stoke-on-Trent school terms are set to remain the same after a 14 week consultation with parents, teaching and support staff, pupils, school governors, trade unions and other groups which got 1,369 responses.

The council’s cabinet will decide next week on the pattern for Stoke-on-Trent school terms for the next academic year 2013-14 and beyond, the recommendation put to the cabinet will be to stay with the traditional three-term system, with breaks for Easter and Christmas, and a six-week summer holiday. Continue reading

Ofsted and a political agenda

I have a mate who has taught at a FE College in the area for approaching 25 years. He is an excellent teacher who knows his subject- History extremely well. In fact it’s a subject of some annoyance to him that he has to spend a great deal of time addressing large gaps in the knowledge of the students such as pointing out where Germany is on a map before he can run a class on the First World War. He told me the other day that he is expecting the College to fail its inspection. One factor in the apparent down grading of the number of students leaving as a consequence of EMA being removed a consequence of coalition policy and little to do with any systemic failing in the college. Continue reading

Mandate For Change Budget Failing The City’s Children?

Education Welfare Officers are set to be reduced as part of Stoke-on-Trent City Councils Mandate For Change Budget for 2012.

The budget proposals show that the City Council want to remove 3 Education Welfare Officers posts which will see the workload on the remaining officers increase by around 30%.

Education Welfare officers provide a statutory duty ensuring that all school age children in the city receive education at an appropriate level, they are responsible for ensuring that families moving in to the city are met and that provision for schooling is provided for them. They also ensure that our most vulnerable children, those in care, receive appropriate education.

The cuts would also mean that the trigger for when Education Welfare get involved in school absences would be reduced from the current level of 80%.

The budget proposal to remove 3 of these valuable posts says

  • School attendance may fall across the City
  • There will be an impact on the ability to undertake some of the statutory duties including monitoring Children Missing Education.
  • There will be a reduction in home visits which can act as an early warning to other integrated services and may have implications for safeguarding.
  • Primary schools will no longer have a named EWO who contacts and supports them regularly

The Mandate for Change Budget is all about making Stoke-on-Trent a great place to live and do business, although high educational attainment doesn’t seem to count towards gaining inward investment in this case.

National Deaf Children’s Society Responds to Stoke-on-Trent City Councils U-Turn On Educational Services For Deaf Children

NDCS is pleased that as a result of our High Court legal action Stoke City Council is reconsidering its proposed decision to cut vital educational services for deaf children. However, we are very disappointed that it has taken them this long: months of discussion, a Freedom of Information request and a High Court action, to bring about this U-turn.

The battle is not over yet as Stoke City Council is not reversing their previous decision to cut three Teachers of the Deaf. Parents continue to believe that the service needs to be improved and we will be supporting parents to ensure that their concerns are heard.
NDCS and the council are currently in the process of agreeing a court order which will quash the council’s decision and ensure that, if the council propose more changes, they must do so by a proper legal process which will involve consulting NDCS and others.

Parents who are concerned about the support their child is getting can contact the NDCS Freephone helpline on 0808 800 8880, email helpline@ndcs.org.uk or visit the website using the link below.

Bashing the Bishop ““ But was the “ËœArch’ Right

I have loved the continuous coverage of the war of words between the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams and the Prime Minister David Cameron ably supported by a legion of right wing press reporters and bloggers. It’s true to say that there has been a fair amount of bishop bashing today.

Some say that religion is the cause of many a conflict, this one was started by an article the Archbishop wrote for the left leaning New Statesman magazine.

In it he questions the Conservative, Liberal Democrat coalition government, saying quite rightly, that no individuals voted for the policies that have been adopted.

Dr Williams wrote that the coalition was causing “Ëœwidespread suspicion’ and was creating “Ëœanxiety and anger’ in the country by introducing reforms without sufficient debate.

He accused the coalition of imposing their health and education policies at “Ëœremarkable speed’.

I don’t think anyone who has read the article can be in any doubt that the Archbishop has little time for David Cameron & Nick Cleggs policies and is perhaps a little left leaning in his political outlook.

Not since Robert Runcie’s numerous sparring contests with Margret Thatcher has an Archbishop dived head first into the politics of the country.

When you look back in history, there is a long tradition of the church commenting on political issues. Indeed some Archbishops have played key roles in not just politics but the monarchy before parliament was formed.

But in a modern day society, should the head of the Church of England be wading into party politics criticising the government of the day.

Leaders of minority religions aren’t afraid of speaking out. Muslim leaders are often in the news giving their opinions on a wide range of topics, so for me it was good to see the leader of the Church of England give his two penneth.

I was heartened by David Cameron’s response though, the dummy didn’t fly out, he came back with exactly the right comments when he said that the archbishop was entirely free to express “political views” and make “political interventions”. But he added: “I profoundly disagree with many of the views that he has expressed, particularly on issues like debt and welfare and education.”

Whether we agree with his point of view, or like David Cameron, profoundly disagree with it, there has been a precedent set now so I expect it will not be the last time Dr Williams speaks out and criticises the government of the day.

Other CofE leaders have leapt to the defence in the wake of today’s [Friday] public Bishop bashing.

The Bishop of Guildford said Dr Williams’s comments were “Ëœentirely reasonable’ – he said: “Government cannot at any stage simply abrogate its responsibility. One of the prime, core functions of government is the care of all in society, especially those at the bottom.”

I think the tone of the Archbishop’s article took government ministers by surprise. They have responded to Dr Williams’s comments with Liam Fox and Vince Cable defending the claims that the government do not have a mandate to impose sever austerity measures.

I also think that Dr Williams, as a left wing sympathiser, is struggling with the concept that the Lib Dem’s went into the last general election even further to the left than the Labour Party and then jumped into bed with a party way to the right of the Labour Party.

Mind you, they say that opposites attract don’t they?

I admit to being quite surprised by the Archbishops political intervention.

When he has made a speech I’ve always thought that he was a bit wishy washy and as assertive as a field mouse.

He has hardly set the world alight with his insights into the moral’s of a modern day society.

In a society where there is often a breakdown in family values, communities that are blighted by anti-social behaviour and a monumental surge toward materialism, I can’t remember seeing one single hard hitting interview either broadcast or written where he has spoken out on the challenges that meet a progressive society.

He saved his biggest and harshest dig at the “ËœBig Society’ and yet if done correctly, this could restore some of the values that have been lost over recent generations. I think we could do with some of the good old fashioned “ËœDunkirk Spirit’ in a nation that is being ravaged by cuts and many normal Joe and Joanne’s are being left jobless. And a culture shift where the public sector is being disseminated like a game of Jenga.

It looks like politics could be his new game. Maybe he has given up the traditional role as being our moral compass?

So, in summary, I’m saying to Dr Williams yes get involved in the political scene. Represent the views of your flock, be the voice of those that are the most vulnerable in our society, here I do believe that there is a cross over between religion and the state.

But have a go at putting your own house in order first eh? The Church of England is still stuck in the dark ages. There is a bloody battle being fought in an organisation that is institutional sexist, women are fighting for equality. And where gay people are afraid to declare their sexuality.

Churches are losing their flocks in large numbers. The only churches that are booming are those with an ethos like the Breathe City Church here in Stoke-on-Trent.

They are supporting, helping and fixing communities. They are inclusive of gender and sexual orientation. They have progressive and moral leaders. Their numbers are shooting through the roof mostly at the expense of the traditional churches.

So you have a bit of a job on there Dr Williams, there is work to be done in your own palaces, cathedrals and churches before you march upon Westminster.

Consultation Over Stoke-on-Trent School Site

Parents and carers of pupils who attend Sandon Business and Enterprise College in Stoke-on-Trent are being invited to take part in a consultation over the future of the Box Lane site of the school.

Council officers and governors have been meeting to discuss the future of the site, which was due to close in 2013. However, due to the poor state of the buildings and pressure on the school’s budget, along with the fall in pupil numbers, there are proposals to close the site at the end of the summer term this year.

Currently, around one hundred and twenty five (125) students are being taught at the Box Lane site, and around sixty (60) could transfer after the summer break, as the school will be able to accommodate the new intake.

The existing buildings at Box Lane are due to close in two years time but following detailed examination of the classrooms and facilities it is proposed to close the site early in the best interests of both pupils and staff.

“Moving the young people from this outdated site early will benefit them in many ways, and we are keen to ensure that all children and young people receive the best quality education in the very best facilities. Closing Box Lane means we can secure the highest standards of education and ensure all available funding is used to best advantage at the Sandon site, rather than money continuing to be spent on a soon-to-be redundant school building.”

After the consultation has finished governors from Sandon Business and Enterprise College will meet council officers to consider the findings and make a final decision.

The consultation is open to all parents and carers at the school and will end on March 18th. People interested in taking part can do so can do so by giving their views in writing to Laura Wright or Sarah Pilling, Children and Young People’s Services, Stoke-on-Trent City Council, SRT41RN or email laura.wright@stoke.gov.uk or sarah.pilling@stoke.gov.uk .

Planning go-ahead for ‘Discovery’ city academy

The news has been welcomed by the cabinet member for children and young people’s services, Councillor Debra Gratton.

“This gives the green light for the new Discovery Academy to be built and closes another chapter in the BSF story in the city. This new academy will provide first class facilities replacing two high schools and will also act as a hub for community use by people wanting to access the facilities available out of school hours. With the start of development at REACH at Trent Vale, parents, pupils and staff are now starting to see a real difference in the educational landscape in the city.”

Work on the new school, which will replace Mitchell and Edensor High Schools, will begin on site at the in Lauder Place North, Bentilee in September this year and the first pupils are set to move into the new buildings in September 2013.

Rob Flello Seeks Clarification on Stoke-on-Trent BSF Funding

Stoke-on-Trent South MP Rob Flello quizzed Prime Minister David Cameron on whether Stoke-on-Trent will receive enough Building Schools for the Future funding to complete the construction of the planned secondary schools.

Mr Flello took the opportunity during yesterday’s [Wednesday] Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons.

The Prime Minister will be aware that by 7 July the Education Secretary would have already understood the financial situation and the “state of the books”, as the Prime Minister is so keen to keep stating, so why on 7 July, in this House, did the Education Secretary say:

“One announcement that I was able to make on Monday was that Stoke-on-Trent, as a local authority that has reached financial close, will see all the schools under Building Schools for the Future rebuilt”

Is there some confusion between the Prime Minister and the Education Secretary?

The Prime Minister was in no mood to reassure the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South.

We were left a complete mess in terms of Building Schools for the Future. Here was a programme that took up three years and hundreds of millions of pounds before a single brick was laid. The cost of building those schools was twice what it should have been, so we have scrapped that programme and made available £15 billion for the next four years. That means that school building will be higher under this Government than it was under the Labour Government starting in 1997.

The recent announcement by Michael Gove that those school building schemes spared, are now facing cuts in funding of 40%, despite their being given the green light when he reduced Labour’s Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme in July.

This will effect some 600 and will realise potential savings of £6bn. The announcement now throws the building of the so called “sample schools” specifically given the thumbs up by the Department for Education back in August.

Just how this latest announcement will impact on Stoke-on-Trent remains unclear.

It may well throw the future of the Discovery Academy into doubt.

The controversial school was to be sited on the Willfield Community Centre location.

The Community Schools Action Group, who are campaigning for a school to be retained on the Mitchell High School site, will be watching developments very closely indeed.
Joan Walley MP for Stoke-on-Trent North has also raised the issue about BSF funding in Parliament today.

She called for an urgent debate on the issue and was met with a noncommittal response.

Stoke-on-Trent GCSE results show “Ëœgiant improvements’

GCSE results in Stoke-on-Trent have shown “Ëœgiant improvements’ compared to other areas of the country.

Early indications from the Department for Education show the number of city pupils achieving five or more A*-C grades including maths and English rose by 8.6 per cent this summer. The figure puts Stoke-on-Trent City Council joint eighth out of 151 authorities in the country in terms of improvement. It means the city is 3.5 per cent higher than the England average for improvement, and that the council has improved at a higher level than any of the 10 authorities that are most similar to Stoke-on-Trent.

“This is a fabulous achievement, and one that the whole city can feel proud of. Very positive recent improvements have been made year-on-year to GCSE attainment and this year’s results show an exceptional increase.

“This is down to the hard work of pupils, the dedication of teachers and their support staff, and the support of parents and carers.

“The challenge now is to keep the improvements coming. We know that the city is adrift of the national average in terms of actual GCSE attainment levels, and we want to work to surpass this average. It will be a significant challenge to do this, but one that can be achieved with continued hard work.”

“ËœStatistical First Release’ figures from the Department for Education show that 48 per cent of Stoke-on-Trent pupils received five or more A*-C GCSEs including maths and English. In 2009, the figure was 39.4 per cent, and it is the third straight year that the authority has improved its attainment.

The national average is 54.9 per cent. Stoke-on-Trent City Council has improved at a higher level than all 10 similar authorities ““ Doncaster, North East Lincolnshire, Middlesborough, Wakefield, Kingston upon Hull, Redcar and Cleveland, Tameside, Rotherham, Hartlepool and Barnsley.

Validated figures from the Department for Education are expected in January.

Challenges Through Drama At Thistley Hough

Students from a Stoke-on-Trent high school will perform cutting-edge drama later this week as they showcase a new style of interactive teaching at a conference in the city.

Pupils from Thistley Hough Media and Visual Arts College will stage a performance of “Girl A” to an audience of teachers from schools across the country. “Girl A” is an interactive, thought provoking piece of work written and produced by students from Thistley Hough working with professional producer Gordon Poad from the drama in education group Cap-a-Pie Associates. The drama looks at the moral questions of how to deal with inherited diseases (trailer available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tM0Q2NzJ05M)

“We want to encourage young people ““ and teachers ““ to debate challenging subjects using drama as a way of bringing those subjects to life. We want the students to question each other and themselves about their views on a variety of subjects. The conference will ““ hopefully ““ be a way to show other teachers how the curriculum can benefit from this innovative teaching method.”

Neil, who was the Head of Science at Thistley Hough before taking over as science advisor to the council, said the project ““ called Dramatic Enquiry ““ was also a way of involving different departments in a collaborative project.

“We hope this day will give people plenty to think about and show different disciplines can work together to make the whole teaching and learning process more stimulating.”

So far, two other city schools, Clarice Cliff Primary and Haywood Engineering College, have worked on the project which is funded by Partners in Creative Learning as part of the Creative Partnerships programme for the city.

“Using drama in this way to broaden young people’s thinking is extremely exciting. I would like to think that not only will other city schools get involved in this project but Stoke could become a centre of excellence for this particular approach to learning.”