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

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue attend 63 grass fires in one week

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service has re-launched its grass fires campaign to combat deliberately started grass fires and is reminding people that starting fires not only endangers lives but destroys Staffordshire’s natural beauty as well.

Since the launch of Flames Aren’t Games last week, the Service has attended 63 grass fires countywide, all started deliberately and some requiring over 30 firefighters to deal with the incident. 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.

Ofsted inspection is good news for Stoke-on-Trent City Council

Following an unannounced inspection of contact, referral and assessment arrangements at the city council on 8 and 9 March Ofsted have said ‘The majority of areas for development have been fully addressed’.

Ofsted inspectors gathered evidence from electronic case records, supervision files and notes, observation of social workers and interviews with staff and managers.

The report states areas of development identified at a previous inspection of contact, referral and assessments arrangements in June 2010 have been addressed with only one area remaining that requires development.

The report goes on to highlight good work in: prompt action taken on contacts and referrals; case records being largely thorough and up-to-date; social workers have access to a wide range of training and are well supported; and police domestic violence referrals are now being addressed in a timely fashion.

Sharon Menghini, Director for Children and Young People Services said: “Given this was an unannounced inspection it gives a true picture of exactly how much proactive development work we have put into our contact, referral and assessment services. These services are very important when it comes to safeguarding children in our city which is a priority for us. While there remain areas for us to address, overall it is really good news for us. The Council is making significant progress in driving our Children and Young People Services forward as a service we are proud off.”

Areas for development mentioned in the report are around duplication in the current system of paper files and telephone calls as well as needing to more clearly consider previous history of social care involvement with families in all re-referrals and assessments. Work has already started to put these areas right as soon as possible.

City Council Give Advice To Schools On The Care Of Islamic Pupils In The Fasting Month Of Ramadan

Some jobsworth at the city council as taken it on his/herself to issue an 11 page guide for school staff on how to care for Islamic children if they are fasting in the daylight hours in the month of Ramadan.

Faced with massive council cutbacks some brains of Briton as pulled this idiots guide together has some children of the Muslim religion may still be fasting when the school year starts up again in September.

In the paper, it says Islamic pupils should not take part in swimming lessons. Although swimming is acceptable to Muslims in Ramadan. The idiot who put this together is worried some water may well be swallowed. It also goes to pains to point out to staff the effects of getting up early to have something to eat before sunrise. It also explains the tell tale signs of dehydration and that sex education should no be given to them past puberty as sexual thoughts are also to be avoided in the daylight.

Ramadan starts on the 11th August and lasts until September 9th, anyone tell me what date the kids go back School after the summer hols, because I have not a clue. During this time devout Muslims fast in the between sunrise and sunset, its up to them. Good on em’ for having the conviction to do it.

Lets face fact here, its been going on for a good many years, thousands in fact, and the best people to guide the children who wish to fast are the wider Islamic community, not some fool hiding out in the back office of the Civic Centre. Its not got a lot to do with them, and if a teacher can not see the signs of a child being tired or dehydrated, they really should not be in the job.

It goes as far as to say that those having a free school meal should get a packed one to take home. Myself, I’m at a loss about that one, don’t know about you lot.

How I’m seeing this is Ramadan’s like Christmas, without the drinking and the Ham Roast on Boxing Day. It comes round every year, just not at the same time as it goes on the cycle of the moon. There as been times when the full month of daylight fasting falls within schooling time, and I have never heard of anything like this being sent out.

OK, open for debate, your thoughts please.

Alice in Wonderland comes to Haywood Engineering College

Haywood Engineering College will be getting into the cultural spirit of the 2012
Olympic Games this week when their Community Games Festival takes on
an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ theme.

A variety of games and activities inspired by real Olympic events will take
place during the event from 11am to 4pm. Over 100 children will open the
festival, parading through local streets in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ inspired
costumes made by the young people themselves and also supplied by local
professional costume company ST6.

The festival, which is organised by Haywood PTFA Committee and supported
by ward budget, offers something for everyone including whacky games and
sports inspired by the Olympics, a climbing wall, bungee run, skateboard
workshop by Northern Rolling, dance displays on stage including youngsters
from Wildstyle Break-dance School to more traditional fairground attractions
and stalls.

The parade itself will tour the surrounding area of the school, along High
Lane, down Greenbank Road and through Stanfields back up to the school.
The parade will contain a variety of costumes made by the pupils of Haywood
and partnering primary schools.

Councillor Hazel Lyth, cabinet member for adult social care, sport, leisure and
culture, said: “The Haywood Festival is a great way to bring the community
together to take part in sporting and cultural activity inspired by the London
2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“The costumes made for the parade are designed beautifully and I’m looking
forward to meeting Alice and the Queen of Hearts who will be played by
drama students from Haywood College itself.”

Jill Chadwick, parental co-ordinator at the college, added: “The whole school
and whole community are coming together as one in a spectacular celebration
which will showcase the many talents of pupils and other local schools for the
benefit of everybody.”

Date: Saturday 10 July 2010
Event: Haywood Community Games Festival
Venue: Haywood Engineering College, High Lane, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent,
Time: 11am – 4pm (Parade 11am)



To find out more about Community Games, how you can get involved, and the
support on offer, email vanessa.darlington@stoke.gov.uk or telephone 01782


Sports Bonanza For Stoke-on-Trent Schools

Thousands of children will be able to enjoy a whole range of sporting activities in Stoke-on-Trent next week when they take part in the Lloyds TSB National School Sports Week.
Each high school in the north of the city has nominated National School Sports Week leaders to champion the activities taking place in their school. The aim is to help promote the national target of a five hour offer of PE and sport for all young people. The idea is also to champion the Olympic/Paralympic values of inspiration, equality, excellence, friendship, determination, respect and courage. Schoolchildren will also be encouraged to make a sports pledge which could involve taking more exercise in the week or getting involved in a new sport.

One of the highlights of the week will be the TOP Link Sport Festival at Northwood Stadium on Wednesday June 30th, when 350 primary school children will be coached in 16 different sports by 70 high school sports leaders. The sports include; cricket, gymnastics, football, volleyball, dodge ball and badminton. The Lord Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent, Cllr. Denver Tolley, will be one of the VIP’s along with former international gymnast Craig Heap and local international athlete Alex Nelson who will both be involved with the National School Sport Week programme of events.

As well as the Northwood festival, schools are hosting a number of events in their own schools from cycling and rowing to an agility festival.

Councillor Hazel Lyth said, ‘As we look forward to the 2012 Olympics, this is a terrific showcase of how our young people are embracing a variety of sports. There really is something for everyone here, and the programme is aimed at being inclusive for children of all abilities.’

Cabinet member for children and young people’s services, Councillor. Debra Gratton, said, ‘This is a fantastic opportunity for our young people to try their hand at all sorts of different sports and it helps to raise the profile of sport in schools, which is a key element of any child’s development. Getting involved in events like this gives young people a chance to develop their sporting skills, which in turn helps with general confidence and self-esteem.’

Events start on Monday June 28 and finish on Friday July 2.

Who would want to be a teacher?

I met up with an old friend last night in Leek for a pint. He teaches in a primary school in the West Midlands and has being teaching for 25 years in the same school. He yearns for the day that he can retire as teaching is having an impact on his mental health. A few years ago he broke down in the classroom and was off work with depression. Recently the school failed its Ofsted and fear that his mental well being is in decline re surfaced. He told me about the failings of the Head at his school who has allowed things to slide. It seems one of the factors in the failing was the toxic reports that the parents gave on the head. He tells me of the impossible demands of the parents who are quick to criticise but slow to offer any support themselves either to their off spring or generally to the school. Over the years the social composition of the school has changed with the middle class element voting with their feet. The school draws from a large council estate. The kids the boys especially spend much of their free time on computers, sometimes several hours into late in the night and arrive dog tired at school. By 10 am many of them have their heads down on the desk, as they are exhausted. He gave the class of 31 an exercise on South Africa and only three had bothered to do it. The range of abilities of the kids is also very wide ranging from kids who can give all the Prime Numbers up to 100 and others who do not know what the next number after 99 is. Disruption is an increasing problem in the school although not in his class. He is the only male in the school “apart from the rabbit in class 2″. His colleagues can only talk about teaching and the X Factor. He increasingly finds them and the job a chore. Then of course there is Ofsted, which has increased its failure rate from 3% to 10% so that more schools fall into the net. He is scathing about Ofsted and on a previous visit characterised the inspectorate as ” as middle class, middle aged women from Herefordshire” who knowledge of the problems of a Black Country school in a social priority area are sketchy at least.

I have another friend who I have also known since the 70s. She teaches in a High School in the City, which is in special measures. Again it is in a troubled area of the City. She works something like 70 to 80 hours a week. She seems to have no time of her own. Work pressure is crushing and again her health is affected. The Head Teacher piles more and more work on her and her life is spent in writing reports often at very short notice.

A third friend teaches at a FE College. He has worked their since the 80s and again is finding the increasing demands of his job testing. The manager who has never taught and has come from industry is a bully and there have been arguments and threats. There are minor victories when he informed the manager of spelling and grammatical mistakes in one of the frequent missives from the manager.

If these accounts are typical of the experience of teaching in the opening years of the 21st Century then who would want to teach?

I am a qualified teacher and I did teach again in 2005 in a local FE College. I had been some years out of the game but I was shocked by a number of things that I witnessed. It seemed that the A level students I was teaching German History to seemed to lack any initiative or drive. What surprised me was that some of them were destined to go to some prestigious Universities like Bristol, Durham and Leeds. I set them an exercise on the domestic and foreign policy of Kaiser Wilhelm. I gave them the website, lists of source material, extracts from books and other information that would help them each to give 5-minute presentations on subjects like Wilhelmite expansion in Africa. No one did the exercise although I believed that the ability to present information would hold him or her in good stead throughout their working lives. Anyway no one did it. Again in writing reports I was told to eschew the truth and write only positive things about the students even though I wanted to write words like ” lazy” and “oaf” in the reports. I feared that we were producing students who were incapable of independent thought or action. Friends who work in Higher Education confirm the lamentable state of students who arrive at Universities. Maths students who don’t know what “factorise” means, etc.

Last year the NUT produced a report on the mental health of teachers. It catalogued the increasing workload being placed on teachers. Half of teachers were considering leaving the profession citing work demands, lack of support and poor pupil behaviour as being factors. The HSE also found that Teaching was one of the most stressful occupations.

Unmanageable workload, violence, excessive monitoring, disruptive pupils, constant change and workplace bullying were common factors which is leading to a haemorrhaging of teachers from the profession and for those who remain an increased likelihood of mental harm as experienced by my friend.

With another burst of reform promised by the new Government it looks like we will be in for a bumpy ride.

Labour campaign in Bentilee ““ an outrage!

Mervin Smith’s election leaflet, promoted by Mark Meredith, claims after all this time that labour locally want a school on the Mitchell site and another for Longton. After all these years driving forward plans to bulldoze Mitchell High School, Labour at the last minute change their tune in a desperate bid for support.

Nobody has been more of a disaster with their “Ëœbulldozing schools for the future’ plans than Labour’s Mark Meredith and his supporters. He has arrogantly gone round the city, claiming to listen but giving Labour political speeches about how it is best for education to rip schools out of communities in favour of imposed academies. Mark Meredith’s Labour, continuing after he was kicked out, do not deserve to win an election in the city. They will do the city no good, their track record says it all.

Mervin Smith’s leaflet says to bombard council leader Ross Irving with the message “let our community keep its school”. Fine, but who voted for Tory Ross Irving to be council leader? Labour did! Yes it’s true, they really did. Labour set up the Tories so that after years of failure under Labour leadership they could blame the Tories just before an election. And Ross Irving is daft enough to fall for it ““ if he had any sense he would do as Labour are claiming they now request and give us a school on Mitchell and another in Longton – but I won’t hold my breath.

Mervin Smith says about Mitchell “I’m proud to be a governor of the school” So Mervin, are you going to tell us what you have really done as governor? Did you support a ridiculous merger of Mitchell with Edensor miles away? Did you support the destruction of the current schools with no replacement on the Mitchell site? Did you support it being taken over by an academy with sponsor dominance over parents on the governing body? Go on, admit it, tell us what you have really done for Mitchell.

The leaflet says “Labour’s Mervin Smith ““ on your side”. Don’t believe a word of it! The council’s Labour group screw over communities then just before an election pathetically say they have not listened enough but will now. No ““ LABOUR CAN NOT BE TRUSTED!

If the folk of Bentilee and Townsend want to be conned over a few weeks before an election and face the prospect of further betrayal afterwards, then they can vote Labour.

Happily though they have better alternatives, people who have consistently supported the community and to keep a high school on the Mitchell site. People who care about the area all the time, not just at election time.

Independents Wendy Booth and Margaret Lowe are standing for election. Both live in Bentilee, care about the community widely and have been campaigning vigourously in the Community Schools Action Group for a school on Mitchell (I have never seen Mervin Smith at a CSAG meeting). Residents will remember Wendy Booth declaring at a public meeting at Mitchell that she would stand for council and Margaret Lowe, chair of the action group, is also standing. They deserve the local vote, Mervin Smith does not. Current councillor Phil Sandland, standing again, has also shown way more support for the school and has a track record in the community.

This Labour leaflet, for Mervin Smith, promoted by Mark Meredith, is truly shameful.