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Ascot field day for teacher-bashers

Ascot, the social event of the year, has become, for our school a symbol of revolutionary daring. It started last September when a parent suggested a trip to Ascot as a novel and well-deserved team-building outing.

With the backing of governors, teachers attended twilight training sessions to cover statutory obligations, while staff put in place a saving scheme to fund the outing. This was not a new idea for us: we visited Hampton Court seven years ago to celebrate the school's victory of a gold medal for garden design. That visit generated no media attention.

Why Ascot? Why not? All schools, but especially those in challenging circumstances, cannot succeed without that intangible ingredient that the expensive "quick-fix" approach fails to generate. It is that intangible ingredient that keeps our school open from early morning to late night and has transformed it into a thriving community where 729 children speaking 25 languages learn together.

It is that intangible thing that has protected our children from the negative impact of teacher shortages and that motivates staff to work evenings and weekends, free of charge. It is that ingredient acknowledged by our school achievement award.

It is that thing that has given 40 non-teaching staff the courage to return to the classroom to study GCSEs in maths and English. It is the thing most at risk from redundancies we face due to under funding.

Media attention generated by our trip ranged from informed comment to all-too-familiar teacher-bashing by the tabloids. Television crews worked hard to generate negative, ill-informed comments from a few parents.

The responses of the "powers that be" ranged from criticism to silence. We were not surprised but nor were we surprised by the overwhelming support of parents for the trip Our staff are our most expensive and valuable asset. Does it take an act of bravery to celebrate that in a creative, imaginative and even risk-taking way?

Gerri Bennett

Deputy headteacher, Westborough primary school and nursery

Macdonald Avenue

Westcliff on Sea, Essex

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