I wrote this for John Baron in Leeds Guardian in 2010. Thanks to private education company [Education Leeds] and to PFI, three little jewels in the Leeds education crown quite destroyed, but at this point the local community [see picture below] saw off this attempt at a land grab. The next time they didn't even bother with a proper public consultation and . . . . . to be continued.A tale of the last three schools standing
It's the last day of the consultation process into the future of City of Leeds, Primrose and Parklands schools today. In a guest post, education campaigner and blogger Victoria Jaquiss gives her take on the process.
Hundreds flocked to the City of Leeds High School meeting. Photograph: John Baron/guardian.co.uk
Friday 5 March 2010 10.07 GMTLast modified on Wednesday 11 June 201420.30 BST
I'm kinda wondering about this whole 'let's close City of Leeds School, and divide all the kids up between five other schools' proposal. Is it one big diversionary tactic so they can sneak in two more academies before local government cuts and a general election come along to spoil the fun?
Because, on the face of it, we have a terrific inner-city school, of a good size, with 14 years of good Ofsted inspections (and who'd think you'd ever want to thank Ofsted?) and with students speaking 74 different languages.
It's only been on its present site since 1992, has survived four or five attempts on its life since 2003, and it takes in children from all over Africa and Europe, and even Africa through Europe (there's your trilinguals - Ghana through Austria, Zambia through Germany).
And it takes in children with English, not even as a second language, and manages to include them in lessons, under the guidance of Ofsted-commended EAL department, again without affecting the education of their local peers.
Sounds good, doesn't it?! I'd like to send my children there, just handy, down the road from I live. Oh I did send them, and they got eight and nine GCSE grade A-Cs respectively. And not one penny on bus fares!
School deserves a medal
How did this school attract all these amazing staff? Myself included! It deserves a medal. Actually it got two last year: most improved attendance in a Leeds school.
It was awarded to us by the very same people who have written on the consultation document, "we are not confident that ... attendance, standards, achievement ... can improve quickly enough".
And then my own Leeds Silver Steel Sparrows won the National Festival for Youth World Music Award. Top UK youth steel band! How high do you have to go to counted a high standard and achievement by Education Leeds? (And top player, Varshika, who played 25 gigs, as well as the Albert Hall, got nine A-Cs, including A* in Maths – just in case, someone wants to say, it's only music!)
And then there's students: Wells and Ellen. They've been with us for four years now, and with support from City of Leeds staff and from local residents, they survived the last attempt to return them to Malawi.
Wrenched from home in the middle of the night, taken to Yarlswood Detention Centre, they spent two months there. And it was City of Leeds staff, in combination with their church and with members of the local community, who wrote the letters and raised money that gave them a stay of execution. How would you measure that then?
Shall we give them a last literacy test before the Home Office gathers up all their life in Leeds and forces them onto the plane back? Where will they be on our results? I don't think there's league tables for kindness, extreme care and beyond the call of duty. Primrose High School could become an academy. Photograph: John Baron/guardian.co.uk
Primrose High School, sadly, the only one of the three to be devastated already by new PFI building syndrome. PFI is Private Finance Initiative, part of the BSF programme aka 'Building Slums for the Future'. Last year the Institute of Architects describes BSF as an opportunity lost. And I would describe that as the understatement of our time.
As with all Better Schools for the Future (only kidding about the slums, once the roofs are screwed down properly, they'll be great), they were designed without a teacher in sight. "What shall we do," said the architects, "to make it really hard for the music department?". "I know," said the builder, "we'll put a two-lane highway between the Music Room and the practice rooms." "Yo, man," said the architect, "that'll keep them busy."
"What about outside concrete staircases encased in metal cages? Then everybody would get cold and wet moving from one lesson to the next?" "Like it," replied the builder. "From the street it would look like of those prison documentaries."
The old Primrose school building was terrible. When it rained you could hear it pounding down on the roof. Whereas, in the new building, it just rains straight in. Obviously this is less noisy, but actually it's really distracting when it short-circuits the keyboards or when the cello strings get wet. At the South Leeds PFI new-build the rain knocked out the entire recording studio and a class set of keyboards and computers, but it was okay because they built the corridors wide enough so that the new keyboards could rest up against the walls. A public meeting looking at the future of Parklands School was held in Seacroft recently. John Baron/guardian.co.uk
Parklands. So here we have a good - by anybody's standards - all girls' school, a little jewel in a big city's crown, with the most improved number of A-Cs of any Leeds school, rocketing them off the National Challenge list.
With this school, we have attracted and would continue to attract Muslim academics and their families to this city, if speakers from the floor at the so-calledconsultation meeting are to go by.
At a time when there are east-west and religious tensions, what a credit to us in Leeds it is that Parklands is able not just to offer a single sex school to the daughters of Asian families, but to do it in such a way that they work alongside local English (white/black/mixed-race) girls. And how shameful it would be if a city the size of Leeds couldn't offer one such single-sex school.
I end with just two of my favourite quotes from the City of Leedsconsultation documents:
1. The staff would become "potentially redundant". I opined, in my response, that "sacked" might be the word they were looking for.
2. "Have you found the booklet useful?" – this directed to parents whose world they are planning to turn upside down, into whose community they are, in effect, about to increase the rates in crime, truancy, drug-use, mental health problems and suicides, and whose children, right in the middle of their schooling, have told that officially their school is rubbish, and they must be bussed all over the city, cutting up friendship groups and go to schools, which have no better and some have worse results. "Useful"? Not really.
So there you have it: a tale of the last three schools standing. Every Child Matters? Not at all.
* Victoria Jaquiss writes the Leeds Schools Campaigner blog.
This the link below to the original blog: