Sunday, 13 June 2010

City of Leeds School

Well, we did the second day at the Mela. And despite the rain in the late afternoon, still amazing. We were my own community steel band, plus some members of the music centre and schools' band that City of Leeds School houses. My house is now top to toe sopping wet steel pans, steel pan cases, steel pan music, steel pan sticks, steel band CDs, steel band hoodies and two gazebos.

And do you know, just for a while, we were lost in music, all of us, ordinary people with ordinary jobs, playing extraordinary music that comes with years of practice. And playing stages at Bradford Mela, Leeds Town Hall, Leeds West Indian Carnival, Birmingham Conservatoire, floats at Huddersfield, Manchester, Otley, Featherstone and Brotherton Carnivals, and of course that gig at the Royal Albert Hall.

So it's back home to the day job and campaigning. Here's the second letter of objection that I wrote regarding the proposed closure of City of Leeds School.

20 May 2010

Re Consultation on proposed closure of City of Leeds School

I am writing to express my opposition to the proposed closure of City of Leeds School. Below I list just a few reasons why this should not go ahead.

At City of Leeds we look after a wide range of children [and their families] from asylum-seekers threatened with deportation to students with settled family backgrounds who are working steadily towards their university courses. To children of local dysfunctional families and to children travelling right across Leeds, quite happily, with City of Leeds initially as not their preferred first choice school.

At City of Leeds we have had our efforts to provide an excellent education sabotaged by Education Leeds for over 6 years. Threats of closure make people doubt the school. Unsubstantiated comments have been finding their way into the local press. [eg the Chief Executive took an opportunity when he was on Radio Leeds to say “Who would send their children to this school?” Shocking! Unprofessional!][I texted in to say that I happily and successfully sent mine there, and they read it out on air.]

Inner-city schools are also at a disadvantage for various reasons: poverty, immigration, a growing vicious circle of no confidence, then the influx of children excluded from more popular schools.

Poor families can’t buy tutors to prop their children’s education, which in turn props up the school. The children of local poorer and sometimes dysfunctional families not getting good results; asylum-seekers having to take exams before their English is properly up to it. Other families then think there’s something wrong with the school, or they don’t want their own children to associate with failing children. So the more aspirational parents take their kids out. And the school’s exam results go down. The teaching is still excellent; still caring; children still achieving in difficult circumstances. The school passes 13 Ofsteds or HMI inspections in 15 years. The more academic pupils are still going on to sixth form or sixth form college and university.

Really, the school deserves to be congratulated, not pilloried. I will sum up my objections thus:
1. City of Leeds School did not and does not deserve this threat of closure
2. All candidates at the local council elections put that they opposed this closure in their manifestos. Everyone who voted supported the school. All the parents of the pupils at City want it to stay open
3. The alternative is ridiculous. Even if the school was poor, splitting up all these vulnerable pupils in this way is a recipe for educational and emotional dysfunction.
4. Suggesting that sending children from a school with a satisfactory inspection to four other schools one in Special Measures, and two academies which don’t yet exist, well, it beggars belief. How could anyone take this idea seriously?

Victoria Jaquiss FRSA, teacher at City of Leeds and at Leeds ArtForms, parent, governor, local resident, education writer

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