Monday, 21 June 2010

Trigger Happy, and who only just scraped a pass?

In his letter of 22 September 2009, Ed Balls wrote from his Westminster Office to Education Leeds thus:

Dear C____ ,
I am writing to thank you for the dedicated support you have given this year to the National Challenge - our ambitious programme to transform secondary school standards . .

Despite this very progress, . . there have been some schools where results have been disappointing. . .

If local authorities fail to act, I will not hesitate to use the full range of powers available to me to trigger intervention or inspections. . .

The City of Leeds and Primrose federation again performed very poorly* and we must now urgently deliver long term solutions for these vulnerable schools. . . . you will also wish to consider what steps you can take now, including issuing a warning notice or asking for an Ofsted inspection.

Rt Hon Ed Balls MP
Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families

On May 6 2010, while the rest of the United Kingdom was at the polls, Ofsted phoned up City of Leeds School to invite themselves in for a one day quickie.

Well, there we were, fighting closure, some of us on a daily blog basis; we were out delivering leaflets for parent and council candidate, Adele Beeson, who was standing on a Hands off our School ticket. There were letters to the papers, attending ward area meetings [not as exciting as they sound!], all the stuff you do. We were trying to keep our Yr 11s focused on their exams, while the students felt that they were being told that their school: their home from home for the past five years was rubbish. And where did work/life balance go?

Wisely, as it turned out, I decided against going to the Count. The others didn't get home till past 3am, and some of them got photographed for the local newspaper asleep against a wall.

So, May 7 2010, while the country started to hold its collective breath re the election results, City of Leeds School in Hyde Park and Woodhouse Ward, Leeds. discovered that it had passed an Ofsted Inspection - new framework and all, while down at Merrion House there was a gnashing of teeth that you could hear all the way up Woodhouse Street to Leeds Met and the Fenton [the first is a university; the latter a pub].

Somewhere between Ed Balls and Ed Leeds, they had shot their last bolt, but the ultimate weapon [and I'm sure Ofsted never meant to be seen as such] was fired and failed to find its target. Someone with more power than it was safe for them to have, was making assumptions and decsions about schools that one of them had never seen, and the other maybe had been into a dozen times, mostly in order to put it down.

Who "triggered the Ofsted"? Who knows? Who assumed that it was fair to judge German-speaking, Ndebele-speaking, Pushto-speaking, Setswana-speaking, Polish-speaking, and in short pupils with 74 separate first languages, who assumed that they could take exams in English and do as well as if they had taken them in their mother tongues? And, and, and, what about why are they are in Leeds in the first place - for their health, for a holiday! I don't think so. No disrespect to my adopted city, but you wouldn't leave Ethiopia for Leeds for a recreational break.

And at the same Ed Balls [Rt Honourable, ex of Westminster] came back to Morley, Leeds to find that he had only just scraped a pass.

[* oh no, they didn't!]

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