Day 78 – A Lower School Teacher Speaks

SMS received this email yesterday and, with the permission of its author, it is repeated here in its entirety – further contributions are welcomed of course.

After you’ve read it, don’t forget to TAKE ACTION of some sort TODAY…

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The current 2/3 tier debate within Bedford Borough is rather a sad indictment on our education system. Having taught within Bedfordshire for twenty five years, for all that time I didn’t realise that my sole purpose was to facilitate mandatory GCSE results. Perhaps I have been naive? I always assumed I was an educator – inspiring children, instilling social and moral values, allowing confidence to grow.

To date, the consultation process presented by the 2 tier lobbyists has concentrated exclusively on GCSE results within the Borough. No consideration seems to have been given to the ‘child’. Doesn’t ‘Every Child Matter’ in Bedford Borough? There will only ever be a certain percentage of the school population who achieve 5 A-C grades at GCSE but what of the others? It would seem that in this consultation they are being disregarded.

Let’s think further into the future than merely GCSEs. Let’s consider these young adults applying for their first job. How many employers take on people solely on academic qualifications? None. How many employ the confident, friendly applicant who comes across well at interview, who shows initiative and enterprise, even though their paper qualifications might be slightly less than the next person? Most.

I am convinced that the 3 tier system allows children to develop confidence gradually and naturally, almost as an unseen, progressive process. Leadership opportunities are afforded to the children at more regular intervals than occurs in the 2 tier system. All Year 4 children in lower schools assume positions of responsibility; all Year 8s in middle schools similarly gain experience in such leadership roles (sporting opportunities in this regard are particularly evident for both Y4 and Y8 children) and this natural, yet regular, access to positions of responsibility promotes self-belief and assurance. Again, leadership opportunities exist in upper school for the children to continue their role of young ambassadors and leaders. In my role as PE co-ordinator, staff invariably comment on the mature young adults who visit lower schools to lead sporting activities. I am sure it is as a direct result of the gradual building of self-esteem, confidence and natural progression that the 3 tier system allows.

For this reason, forgetting GCSE results for once (!) I would maintain our 3 tier system in the Bedford Borough.

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5 Responses to Day 78 – A Lower School Teacher Speaks

  1. Ed Thomas says:

    THE LINCROFT EXPERIMENT!

    As regularly bloggers know, Ed has been searching for answers regarding the truth surrounding the proposed new Sharnbrook school at Oakley, formerly known as ‘Outstanding’ Lincroft.

    Thanks to Doug McMurdo’s website I have the answers. Doug’s website contains the ‘School Organisation Review’ by a certain Brian Glover and James White (who?) for the North Bedfordshire Trust. This report was completed in October 2008. Yes Doug, it is worth the read (98 pages), I suggest all North Beds parents read it, this is essential reading. As Nick Ross says on Crimewatch “Please do not have nightmares!” By the way, Brian was employed as an independent consultant! I wonder where he is now?

    My starting point (Brian Glover’s , now Chief Education Officer) letter to parents of pupils at Lincroft feeder lower schools 19/6/09)

    “Consequently, pupils who are currently in Year 4 and are transferring to Lincroft in September and would remain at this school until the end of Year 11”.

    BASICALLY, YOU ARE BRIAN’S EXPERIMENT.

    Don’t worry Year 4’s, here are some comforting findings from Brian in his review document.

    • Page 18 – “The physical condition of the main building appeared poor with considerable investment required in order to upgrade accommodation to the standards required to deliver a 21st century curriculum’.
    • Page 19 – “There is limited space on the current built site to build new facilities without, compromising the functioning of the school” …. “One way of developing the site would be relocating Oakley Lower School to a new site on the playing fields opposite Lincroft School”.

    Lincroft ‘Middle’ School – School site visits – Survey Proforma (23/9/09)
    • “Comprehensive development of the site would present considerable programming challenges in order to prevent an unacceptable level of disruption of learning”
    I REPEAT:
    • “Comprehensive development of the site would present considerable programming challenges in order to prevent an unacceptable level of disruption of learning”
    • The playing fields adjacent to the site present an attractive option for developing the site without heavy construction activities around the school”. Hang on Brian! This is the site for the new Oakley Lower School”.
    • More Construction – “Any development of the site will need to be considered in tandem with the adjacent Oakley Lower School”.
    • “Heavy congestion was reported around the start and end of the school day”.
    • “Overall the school appeared to be in poor condition. The school is considered to need significant investment in order to upgrade the facilities to a modern standard”.

    DO I NEED TO GO ON! FROM THIS EVIDENCE I SERIOUSLY WORRY AND AM CONCERNED FOR THE YEAR 4 PUPILS, THANK GOD MY CHILDREN ARE NOT IN YEAR 4. AFTER READING THIS DOCUMENT, HOW ON EARTH WILL LINCROFT EVER MATCH THE FACILITIES, EXPERIENCES AND OPPORTUNITIES OF THE PRESENT SHARNBROOK, UNLESS IT IS TOTALLY DEMOLISHED! WELCOME TO THE SECOND SCHOOL OF NORTH BEDFORDSHIRE?

    WHAT CAN YOU DO?

    1. Move house – expensive!
    2. Go private – expensive!
    3. Fight these shocking proposals! A much cheaper option!

    ED ( A concerned father) However, my son is quite keen on going to the future Oakley Lower, as he absolutely loves diggers and dumpers, and watching trains from the school window would be a joy.

    By the way, Riseley residents, Brian also believes moving a lower/primary school to the M. Beaufort site would make it the ‘Hub’ of the community! Is this if you like driving to the hub? Surely the centre of a village should be the hub, Brian Glover! Oh, Riseley Lower School is already there. Well done, Brain!

    • Doug McMurdo says:

      Thank you Ed for your recognition of the importance of this document. You must appreciate this is a piece of work commissioned by Bedford Borough Council (prior to it being an Education Authority) and the NBST. This report I think (leaving education aside for a moment) is very important to ALL rural communities in particular those I represent. The report has been widely available on my site for a few months, and I am very surprised that you are the first to my knowledge picked up on it. If you look at the Bedford Borough Council website under FAQ’s, it states:
      “The consultation document states that John Gibbard Lower School in Sharnbrook will “be located in Sharnbrook”. Will this be on the existing site or is the school to be located to a new site within the village?
      A. No decisions have been taken and we welcome any views arising from the consultation. A report was commissioned by the North Bedfordshire
      Schools Trust which produced two options – one to remain on the current site and the second to transfer to the Sharnbrook Campus. The views of the Trust and other local opinion would be welcomed.”
      The original answer on the website stated:
      A. No decisions have been taken and we welcome any views arising from the consultation.”
      I did raise this as a major issue, as I felt it was misleading and NOT reflecting the statement already presented.
      I urge ALL community members to express views on this “consultation”. It is a consultation (and I firmly believe it is) and consider all aspects of the ‘considered options’, and NOT only of that of educational importance, AND importantly NOT for today but the longterm future – it has to be sustainable, whatever the decision.
      Thank you Ed.

  2. PT says:

    I would like to thank the author of this email for putting into coherent words something I tried to say in person (unsuccessfully) at one of the public meetings.

    My daughter is just in the middle of her time at an outstanding middle school (in more ways than one). Like many we were nervous when she left her small village lower school two years ago for a “large” middle school of several hundred pupils. We need not have worried – she has grown in confidence and flourished and found a place where she is more than just another student. She is now an avid reader (and a librarian !), she plays guitar and keyboard, she is fascinated by science (especially horrible science !) and she even grudgingly admits to enjoying PE. She’s just finished her SATS with excellent results as well. She is, in short, a more confident, well-rounded and better educated girl than we ever hoped for. And what’s more, her teachers actually know her name and treat her as an individual. As far as we are concerned, Middle School has been the perfect stepping stone between Lower School and the rigors of GCSE preparation at Upper School.

    Unfortunately some lower school heads have sought to prevent their parents from knowing about how excellent our middle schools are. They want their parents to think that another two years at a warm and cosy lower school is a good thing. They have not told their parents about the libraries, science labs, ICT facilities, music tuition and sports facilities that their 9, 10 and 11 year olds will be robbed of. It is those facilities which have given my daughter the opportunity to grow gradually into her education. If we were to switch to 2-tier I will feel genuinely sorry for those children who, at 11 years old, will find themselves at a school of 1800+ students facing up to their imminent GCSE preparation.

    Equally, upper schools have sought to convince parents that they can truly care for all the 1800+ students they will have. At the public meetings there was talk of dividing each large Secondary School campus into separate smaller schools to make the task more manageable and personable. Am I mistaken or does that sound like a tacit admission that maybe smaller (dare I say, middle-size) schools are actually a good thing ?

    In Bedford Borough I genuinely believe that we are lucky to have an excellent education system. I only wish the Major would be truly brave and work towards making our existing 3-tier school system into the best education system in Britain. Not only could this be done at lower cost and lower risk than a wholesale change of structure but, if done properly, could even begin to show results before he leaves office. He would leave behind something that he and all of Bedford could be proud of.

    Unfortunately bravery and self-belief seem to be sorely lacking among both the Major and the education officers. It appears that “the more money the better” and “if others do it, it must be right” are forming the backbone of their plans. The way the consultation document and meetings have been structured has reinforced this message and appears to try to sidestep democracy and, so far, has ignored public opinion as being ill-informed and irrelevant.

    I used to be proud to be from Bedford – now it embarrasses me !

  3. JamesD says:

    Is it time to call for Brian Glover’s resignaton?

  4. Martin Hamilton says:

    I just want to echo the words above about the vital role of middle schools in providing access to responsibility and the development opportunities in music and sport and many other areas which can simply not be measured by the bald statistics of GCSEs. Developing links between lower schools, middle schools and upper schools with regards to the academic competencies in order to improve results can be done but compromising the rest by changing to 2 tier would set things back years.

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