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'Dear Ed, take us off your hurtful list'

News | Published in TES Newspaper on 5 September, 2008 | By: Warwick Mansell

The head of a National Challenge school whose results have improved dramatically this summer, has written to the Government asking to be removed from its hit list.

Ben Slade, principal of Manor Community College in Cambridge, will forgo any support the programme might be offering in return for being taken off the “hurtful” list.

Manor was one of the 638 secondaries tagged as underperforming - and widely reported as “failing” - when the policy was announced in June. This was based on its 2007 GCSE results, which saw 26 per cent of pupils achieving five or more grade A*-Cs including English and maths. Now its results read 42 per cent on that measure, well clear of the Government’s floor target of 30 per cent. Manor’s inclusion on the list led to local headlines that it could close, with pupils asking if it would shut that term, said Mr Slade.

He feels particularly aggrieved as he took over as head only after the 2007 exams had been taken.

In a letter to Ed Balls, Schools Secretary, he wrote: “My staff work exceptionally hard and we were all hurt by this. The National Challenge appears to have come out of nowhere and is based on one set of statistics from last year. Surely there should be a mechanism for us coming off the list.”

He said it was not clear that a programme of National Challenge advisers, which will work with schools up to one day a fortnight, would help.

He said: “Talking to an adviser and going over the school’s data with him every five minutes will take me away from the business of running a school.”

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