Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

Education Matters: “LES GRANDES VACANCES”

In R.Richardson on September 2, 2015 at 4:15 pm

School’s out! Six glorious weeks for the kids to do nothing much but “hang out”, apart from a family holiday holiday break involving sun, sand and too much ice cream

At least it used to be like that, but – as Rosie Millard in the “i” newspaper points out, life for today’s school children isn’t as carefree as it used to be. Her youngest’s teachers recommended 15 to 30 minutes a day on “on line” platforms (?), to ensure that he doesn’t fall behind.  For older children there’s the summer reading course – a book a week to be ticked off and a German text-book to work through.

“Les Grandes Vacances” are no longer what they used to be for kids – and let’s not even start on how it’s changed for teachers!

DRIVING THROUGH THE EDUCATION BILL:
Laura McInerny of the Guardian believes that the first hundred days of a new Parliament is the time for pushing through radical new policies.  The Education Bill certainly carried further policies already outlined – in particular the drive to ensure that all schools become academies (readers are reminded that all secondary schools in Gloucestershire except one are now academies).  Now “coasting” schools, as identified by Ofsted, will be marked down for intervention.

JUST COASTING ALONG:
Education Minister, Nicky Morgan, was pushed in Parliamentary Question Time to define a “coasting school”, and floundered. But since then a fairly loose definition has been arrived at. A school will be judged on its performance over a period of three years  as to whether or not its pupils have achieved their potential based on their starting point (we reported in the last issue on base line testing for four year olds to be introduced as a pilot in September). The brightest should be stretched and the less able supported.  If these criteria are not met, the governors will be required to begin the conversion to academy process.  Most worrying, consultation before the academisation process begins is to be scrapped.

DISAPPOINTING QUESTIONS:
Labour tabled some amendments to the second reading of the Bill, mostly concerned with the professionalism of the academy chains who sponsor schools , requiring them to be Ofsted inspected as are local authorities. But I was disappointed to realise that if these amendments were adopted, then Labour seemed to be happy to go along with the increasing spread of academies countrywide, and the consequent erosion of local authority powers.

PROMOTING MILITARISM:
Browsing through the informative website , “Schools Week”, I came across the surprising news that cadet units in state schools are to be increased five-fold  by 2020 at a cost of £50 million. At present out of 275 cadet units nationwide, only one hundred are in state schools.
The Combined Cadet Force which runs half of these says that this expansion is “part of the Government’s aim to promote military ethos in schools  and to instil  values in young people that will help them get the most out of their lives.”
Forces Watch, which is a campaign group looking at army recruitment, is of the view that £50 million is a huge amount of money to fund more military activities in schools at the expense of universal provision across the curriculum.

IN THE FOREST:
There are now three schools in Cinderford which are judged to be inadequate. We’ve reported before on the former Heywood Community School, which lost its sponsor, E-act, some months ago. It was renamed Forest High School, and is now run by sponsor South Gloucestershire Schools Academy. The recently appointed head says that they have “already taken positive steps to turn the school around.”

The two primary schools in special measures are St. White’s Primary and St. Anthony’s – a free school.

Both schools issued positive statements from their heads, but Graham Morgan, district and county councillor, said that “education was ruined when it was taken out of local authority control. That’s the crux of it, it’s semi-privatisation …  the sooner it is put right the better for everybody.”

We whole-heartedly agree with you, Graham – but sadly we don’t think it will be put right any time soon!

RUTH RICHARDSON

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