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Agenda

Q

This is a popular primary school in a "good" neighbourhood. We are always full to capacity and more, successful appeals sometimes taking us way over our standard number. The neighbourhood population is growing and parents who don't get places here get very stroppy, understandably, as the nearest alternative is some distance, in old buildings and has a poor reputation.

We'd like classes under 30 as much as anyone, especially as parents complain about the big infant classes we already have. We have space to add a class, but obviously that is ignoring the real problem. Will the 1998 Act work, do you think?

A

I can't give you a satisfactory answer. Ask the Secretary of State! Like you, I welcome the requirement to reduce infant class sizes, but in some situations it's going to be fraudulent to claim we can offer parental choice as well.

I agree that building on a classroom solves nothing: apart from being a commitment to expansion every year that you can't honour, it is another cup of water in the stew - even if you can't increase play space, dining space, special facilities.

There is nothing in the Act, as far as I can see, which promises a fresh approach to standard numbers, and new admissions criteria can't move far from the classic permutations of siblings, distance, and where appropriate religious affiliation. LEAs will have to look harder still at the schools people don't want and the reasons. Keep reminding your own authority.

Q

We haven't yet had our second inspection but rumours suggest that inspectors are getting tougher in the remarks they make about governors' responsibilities for defects or unsatisfactory policies. Yet in our school - and I'm sure we are not alone - governors have never really questioned anything, decided anything, or made anything happen. We will not relish being held responsible.

A

You are right, it is not an uncommon situation. Looked at positively, however, this is just what is going to change the way hardline headteachers treat governors. A few of them are still unaware of what governors are supposed to be involved in.

The more up-front style of OFSTED reporting has already begun to change things in some schools.

You must go to meet this problem. Paint the picture you have painted for me for your head, or get your chair to do so. Make it clear that you cannot again stay silent when inspectors question you or lie down under undeserved blame. Ask for a meeting to discuss issues likely to come up in the inspection, to ensure your proper involvement.

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