After Alan Bennett came to City of Leeds School to give some readings and some comment, and most importantly sign my book!, he wrote this:
21 September. To the City of Leeds School in
Woodhouse, the head of which is Georgie Sale, a
troubleshooting headmistress formerly at my own
old school and who, though not a fan of Michael
Gove, relishes schools like hers that have to be
turned round. There are fifty or so nationalities
here, including two boys who were child soldiers
in Africa and are thought to have killed people, s
and two boys smuggled out of Afghanistan in a
wooden box built above the axle of a jeep. They
came to Leeds thinking they had relatives here
but found they had moved on and so lived rough in
Hyde Park, preying on students and stealing food
until they were picked up by the police and
brought to the school. None of these I see, but
only a light airy secondary school, the
childrens art on the walls . . . my usual stuff seems trivial and
frivolous, with the purpose of the evening to
raise funds so that these extra-curricular events
can be maintained. Were the school an academy
funds would be provided, so I must be grateful to
Mr Gove for bringing me out on this Friday night.
|actual picture of the inner-city oasis that is COLS|
Now actually, it is truly marvellous that this school has survived, and testimony to a great local community who came out to support the school, that it has done - survived, against all the odds. And testimony to its great staff who gave and who give beyond the call of duty to care for and educate the children, as Alan Bennett describes above.
Of course we all know, that Michael Gove has City of Leeds in his sights. When Ed Balls vacated the office he left the dartboard up with the schools he had been targetting. But Alan [I think maybe we are on first name terms since he signed my Untold Tales] was mistaken in one respect: the school, over all the years that the Inquisition levelled its guns on it, never failed an Ofsted.
By the time that Ms Sale was invited to be headteacher, the school was simply low on numbers. Turning the school round was not the point; regaining the confidence of local parents was the issue, so that the school's league tables would depend not upon the results upon the ex-child-soldiers but on the local children in general. [Or maybe league table are not really a good indicator of a school's suceess?. Hmmm!]
I came across an article in YEP [Feb 26 2009] about recent City of Leeds School history, and it really is no wonder the school suffered with numbers. "Sep 1994 moved from city centre site to Woodhouse . . .
Nov 2001 phased closure announced, site to become "young people's academy"
July 2002 planned merger of City of Leeds with Carr Manor High
Oct 2002 Staff launch save our school campaign
Jan 2003 Carr Manor to remain open, but City of Leeds to become a 16-19 learning centre
Aug 2003 plans to merge City of Leeds with St Michael's College revealed
Jan 2004 threat of closure lifted as federation with Primrose High announced
Set 2005 federation formally begins
July 2007 named among 12 possible academies
Nov 2008 among 16 high schools to redeveloped as part of £300m proposed scheme
Jan 2009 academy plans announced"
It didn't stop there. After that Education Leeds tried to close the school. It failed, of coutrse, and shortly after it was Education Leeds who were kicked into touch.
And, do you know, despite all this, the school still did not fail an Ofsted.
The article also included some truly disgusting statements by Chris Edwards [ex-head of late private education company], who also said on Radio Leeds, live, "Who would send their children to that school?", but, do you know what - the school survived.
And, actually, Chris, I sent my two younger children to this school [living as I do, down the road], in 2000 and in 2001 [both leaving with eight A-Cs + a piece], and then spent every year since fighting for its survival, the younger one leaving 2009, shortly before the education company gave away our sixth form [and all the benefits that that brought the school] to Primrose High. As Dizzy would say, Bonkers!