SCHOOLS: Our children’s education must always come first

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After reading the letter in the Gazette last week (January 22) by ‘Name and address supplied’, I am appalled at the suggestion that the consultation on school change is based on the ‘whim of first schools, some of whom have ambition to be primary schools’.

Read last week’s letter here.

Do people really believe that our headteachers are driven by such egotistical goals? What should be foremost in the minds of all interested parties is the education of our children. This is not a time to be either parochial or trying to score petty political points at the expense of others. Our children only have one chance of an education and it would be extremely churlish to accept the status quo as ‘We’ve always done it this way!’

There is plenty of evidence to support the theory that a two-tier educational system has better academic results than three-tier, especially at Key Stage Two SATs.

There is also evidence that the less moves a child experiences in their education the better their results will be.

I also take exception at the comment about mixed classes. Many schools in the Alnwick Partnership will have mixed classes right now and this is not to the detriment of any pupil.

Indeed, recent research suggests that the traditional age-banding of pupils may not be the most effective way of educating them. Placing them in ability-banded classes regardless of age can have a positive effect on their education.

As for the pupil numbers statements, most of the communities mentioned either have planning permission or are looking at building new housing developments.

I would suggest that the school population will increase accordingly.

Another flawed argument is the ‘Difficult to get results for Year Six SATs’ – on what basis is this comment made?

I look at the work of primary schools that do not have ‘specialist’ resources, facilities or staff and see that SATs results are not in any way lower.

Indeed, in large parts of Northumberland that are in a two-tier system, taught up to the end of Key Stage Two by primary-trained teachers, SATs results are higher than what is currently achieved in at least one of the middle schools in the Aln Federation.

The National Curriculum does not have any need for ‘specialist’ facilities or teachers. What it does call for is primary-trained teachers who have a wide breadth of subject knowledge.

There is no need for science laboratories or multi-disciplined sports facilities. What is needed is caring professionals who do their level best for our children.

All of the teachers currently working in first schools have these skills and knowledge; remember most of the first schools in the Alnwick Partnership are currently rated outstanding by Ofsted – the same cannot be said of the middle schools with all of their ‘specialist’ facilities.

One of the options in the county council consultation document is ‘No change’.

However, the Aln Federation has decided to ignore this option and forge ahead with the merger of the two Alnwick middle schools regardless of the consultation outcome.

This is a direct removal of parental choice for schooling and would also seem to be disregarding the views of parents at one of the middle schools.

The main issue here is that parents are not well represented on the governing body. Most schools would have a number of parent governors; within the Aln Federation each school has one parent governor, hardly representative of the parents’ views I would suggest.

There is also a glib, throw-away comment in the presentation that the Aln Federation governors gave mentioning plans to convert the schools to academies.

On what grounds is this decision and again has it been made in consultation with parents?

When the local authority and government are providing funds for the new high school build would an attempt to academise not be biting off the hand that feeds it?

However, what must lay at the heart of any discussion is the future of our children’s education. It is up to us as parents, governors and school leaders to ensure that all of our children receive the highest possible quality of education in whatever setting that is.