Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Bishop’s Park

The Knowsley Building Schools for the Future (BSF) saga grinds remorselessly on. The national adverts for the ‘Learning Centre Leaders’ (a.k.a. ‘Headteachers’) posts produced a grand total of eight people for the five posts, two having already been filled internally. The recent interviews for the Prescot Whiston ‘Learning Centre Leader’ featured three candidates, two of whom had been rejected by the Halewood ‘Learning Centre’ and another who hadn’t even made the short list there.

Prior to the interview candidates were given material from the QCA about an inspirational new school in Clacton, opened in 2002, called Bishop’s Park. The glossy leaflet described its ‘curriculum like tartan’, the headteacher Mike Davis described how schoolwork was,

‘planned ‘from the perspective of a student engaged in inquiry across a swathe of ideas and competences, rather than a stranger visiting a series of disconnected subjects’. He describes it as a ‘tartan’, with the national curriculum subjects woven seamlessly together. Bishops Park uses the national curriculum to provide goals for its students, but subjects are not taught as discrete lessons. Instead teachers plan work around a particular theme for each half-term – 70 per cent of class time is spent on theme work. The themes meaningfully connect the learning content and skills, rather than separating knowledge into compartments. As this is the approach that many primary schools take, pupils tend to find the transition from year 6 to Bishops Park straightforward and stress-free.’

The Knowsley BSF proposals really are like the proverbial curate’s egg, there’s progressive educational ideas mixed up with ridiculous management speak and an over reliance on ICT. However, the major fault line running through it all is the attempt to blame teachers alone for the poor test results in Knowsley. Change imposed from above will just result in grudging acceptance.

Judging by the ‘consultation’ meetings most of the consultants have never been near a real classroom and certainly not in Knowsley. But, you might have expected that said consultants given the vast amounts of money they are paid would have done some basic research i.e., Googling ‘Bishop’s Park’.

They might have picked up the story from July of this year that Bishop’s Park is to close. The new school was built under the auspices of PFI and therefore took priority over other school building work. The basic problem was that there were already too many surplus places in Clacton. Bishop’s Park has only 500 pupils with a capacity of 900. The school serves a disadvantaged area but its results haven’t been spectacular, the pass rate at GCSEs was only 25% (A-C including maths and English). Essex Councillor Tracey Chapman told the BBC: “With parents displaying a lack of confidence and choosing to move away from the school it is necessary that we take action.”

It’s a fairly devastating comment on the way that innovation is viewed – if you can’t jack up the test scores - forget it! I don’t know what kind of school Bishop’s Park is; it sounds pretty inspirational to me. But I just wonder how long the new ‘creative curriculum’ will last in Knowsley if the results don’t improve? Yup, it’ll be back to testing, testing, testing.

Resistance is Futile


BPC is in special measures now. It serves one of the most disadvantaged areas in Essex- the area was once split between the catchments of the other Clacton secondary schools.

Behaviour is appalling- when my mum's Year 6 visited, a chair was thrown down the stairs at them.
Following my visit, with Additional Inspectors, to your school on Wednesday 5 March and Thursday 6 March 2008, I write on behalf of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector to confirm the inspection findings.
The visit was the first monitoring inspection since the school became subject to special measures in October 2007. The monitoring inspection report is attached and the main judgements are set out below.
Progress since being subject to special measures - Satisfactory

Newly qualified teachers may not be appointed.
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