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A school I know

Let me tell you about a school I know.

As schools go, it's a big one. The grounds and buildings are extensive although it has to be said that they're a bit of a mish-mash. They've had some new buildings in recent years, but many of them are a bit shabby and run-down to be frank. Still, everyone seems happy enough with them; "Needs must", they say. The parents are the same really - a real mix. The school has managed the unlikely feat of bringing together families from all sorts of different backgrounds in one place and avoiding all those social rifts you seem to get at most comprehensives: there are machinists and lorry drivers and teachers and accountants: name a job and you'll probably find a representative among the parent body somewhere.  It's non-denominational too, with Christian and Moslem families represented alongside the secular majority. It's a cross-section of society at large I guess, and by and large they all seem to rub along together pretty well.

It's perhaps not the best-equipped school around: some decent science labs wouldn't go amiss for a start, but hey, some schools won't even let the kids try science practicals these days. Despite the less-than ideal facilities, the school still manages to achieve some truly excellent results. The children - it's co-ed by the way - score very highly in standardised tests of their language and maths skills - way above the average in fact, and what is really remarkable is that children from poor families are doing just as well as the rest - better in fact than a middle-class child at an average school. This is the kind of school where a bright kid from a poverty-stricken background can get their chance in life.

There's no selection though: no academic hothouse, this. There are children who are academic, of course, but most are just like any other kid: good at some things and not so good at others. The school has more than its fair share of special needs kids too. It's not easy coping with such a variety, of course, but they seem to have found a way to more than muddle through. I'm sure that other schools could learn a lot from watching them.

How do they do it? Do they just swot the life out of the kids? Well, no. Experts who have inspected the school have praised it for turning out children who are well-rounded and self-motivated.* They are apparently socially adept and better adjusted to the adult world than the vast majority of children today.  The inspectors have also praised the school for delivering the tailored, child-centred education that has eluded almost every other school in the past. Children are playing to their strengths all the time, which I suppose might explain the good results.

It's a fine school then. An extraordinary one, even. So there's no surprise that it's very popular, with the school roll growing at as much as 25% a year. With more and more parents wanting to get their children admitted, it's just as well they have so much room: so far they've been able to accomodate everyone who wants to get in.

It strikes me that this school should be, to a socialist, pretty much the ideal. Just run down the list again - comprehensive, non-denominational, child-centred, and turning out rounded, self-motivated children with literacy, numeracy and skills to boot. This is everything the left says it wants in a school.

So why the hell do they want to close it?

(*The inspectors report is here, by the way).



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Reader Comments (7)

Why do they want to close it?

A non-question if ever there was one.

They want to close it because it threatens their power-base and their monopoly of brainwashing the next generation.

Why does the state ever want to do anything, except to extend and entrench its power?
Jun 8, 2009 at 11:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Duffin
What Andrew said, backed up by a bunch of people who think that really, really, caring is automatically synonymous with doing the right thing.
Jun 8, 2009 at 11:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterRenegade Parent
Because they weren't hugged enough when they were kids.

Btw, have I gone mad or did that Guardian article talk about home schooling in a positive way?!?!
Jun 8, 2009 at 11:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterJonny N
Superb blogpost!

Shirl x
Jun 9, 2009 at 9:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterShirl
You'd think it would appeal (especially at the moment) if only on financial grounds. Each child costs the state £3-4k per year to educate 'normally', money that it doesn't have to find for HE children.

I live in the Isle of Wight, which is about to have its middle schools wrenched away by a Conservative council that was originally voted in on its promise to keep a three-tier system that only tripped up when it failed to dovetail neatly with SATs designed for transfer at age 11. Now SATs are being dismantled, they can't bring themselves to admit they were wrong, so my son's 100-year old (but very well equipped) middle school is to be closed in just over a year, with the loss of all its facilities.

As there is no money to pay for its grand plans, which were to be funded by PFI (hah!) local portacabin suppliers are rubbing their hands (24 are already on order for one school) and parents like me are seriously considering HE, which is already popular on the Island, thanks to our LA's continuous blundering.

We know well one family who have educated their three children at home, and they are model citizens - polite, articulate, worldly and entertaining. The HE group here has collective ventures, including theatrical productions, that result in the mixing of wide age ranges, and as you point out, the children all play to their strengths.

I can only assume that politicians and their wonkettes never actually see or interact with their own children. Perhaps their nannies don't encourage it.
Jun 9, 2009 at 6:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P
Unfortunately, I think you will find that most of the parents will not for HE. It's not a cost-free option. If one family member is no longer earning a salary, the cost is probably higher than a private school.
Jun 9, 2009 at 7:11 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill
I was only thinking of the cost to the state, Bish. One of the reasons I have so much respect for HE families is the time, effort and organisation required, something else that escapes the tiny minds of bureaucrats. It's not something you would do unless you either had to, or were particularly dedicated, IMO.
Jun 9, 2009 at 10:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

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