Thursday, 15 April 2010

Well, they sure didn't choose City of Leeds School, and who can blame them!

The Yorkshire Evening Post ran an education special on 11 March, earlier this year. It featured some very angry families from Middleton and Cross Green who have been allocated City of Leeds School, somewhat against their wishes. And who can blame them?

If Education Leeds hadn’t spent so much time rubbishing its own schools there might be thousands less unhappy parents. But, essentially you cannot allow parents not putting City down as one of their choices to be allocated this school while you have published your proposals to close it. It is criminally irresponsible. And if you are going to allocate school choices against parents' wishes, what an interesting experiment it would have been to make those allocations to families from Woodhouse and Hyde Park. Now there's a thought: a local school for local children. No, it'll never catch on!

At the Parklands consultation meeting, the spokesperson told us that there weren’t enough school places in east Leeds and that’s why they had to close Parklands and build a new co-educational school. Well, what sort of a company decided to close and merge Braimwood and Agnes Stewart and allow in an academy in Seacroft which is not obliged to take in local children?

The same sort that closed and merged Wortley and West Leeds, and then had to reopen one of them.

They would be the same people that have taken advantage of their high profile position in education in Leeds, and used the media to put us down. If a spokesperson says on Radio Leeds [8.15 a.m. Feb 10 2010] , “Who would want to send their children to City of Leeds or Primrose?” then they cannot seriously then allocate places to people who don’t even live near!

And the problem with the YEP article is the unchallenged statements eg “I’ve been reading about [City of Leeds] . . standards are really low, and it’s one of the worst schools in Leeds.” This is not what the Ofsted [2009] says. Again, deliberately in order to discredit the school, this is what Education Leeds is saying, and has written, inaccurately, in the consultation booklet.

As it happens, there are parents, who have done their research carefully [looked at Ofsteds, visited the schools, talked to City pupils], and made the decision to let their children take the two buses [not three] across the city. Amy [from my steelband] came from Beeston everyday for five years and is now taking her A levels at Notre Dame Sixth Form College.

So, here’s a revolutionary suggestion. Keep City of Leeds School open. Concede that crude exam measurements designed to test native English speakers are probably not suitable for recent immigrants whose vocabulary levels may be only be about 3 or 400 conversational English words. At the same time recognise that this school is well able to differentiate, and push the academically able forward while developing English or social for others.

As for the reluctant parents. My heart goes out to them. When the poweres-that-be take the pressure off City of Leeds, there are 60 odd Yr 6 children whose parents were planning to put City first, and who had changed their minds. They will be able change their minds back. That’ll free up some spaces. It’s a start.

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