4th July 2003 at 01:00
TO our great disappointment we have had our application for specialist status turned down.

Perhaps our bid was not good enough. Perhaps our hearts were not really in it because our specialism and pride has always been to offer a sound and balanced curriculum, with very good pastoral care and close relationships with parents.

Our nearest competitors have had their applications accepted - fortunately neither intends selecting 10 per cent of pupils. That would really damage us, but in this area there is a strong collegial spirit and a great commitment to the comprehensive principle.

Our school serves a big estate with lots of problems, but it is one of the most orderly and caring schools I can imagine, and we do have children who turn out to be very able, given belief in themselves. The school has put all its effort into close relationships with our families and the teaching is excellent.

We have few behavioural problems and our results are ever improving.

Many parents help out with our activities, we have big attendances for all school meetings and it is really a social centre for the neighbourhood.

You must have a wonderful head. The only sad thing to me is what you might have done with the extra funds and opportunities which specialist status could bring.

But if you offer a sound, all-round education and have such good relationships, parents will go on wanting their children to come.

One consolation - it is a huge effort to bid for specialist status and unless the school is very strong this could drain its energy. Lose no opportunity to gain other extra funds in the fiendishly complex system we now work in.

If you have an attached local education authority inspector - and if you don't, request help from the LEA in this - ask for a session on all the possible initiatives you may have missed. A school such as you describe deserves some privilege.

Your pride in your school is inspiring. It is clearly one which respects and serves its community and that is something very special. I can assure you that many more obviously flashier performers in the world of secondary schools would envy you.

Please go on valuing your school's secret, whatever you decide to do about specialist status.

Joan Sallis does her best to answer all letters, but please keep requests for private replies to a minimum, since we aim to provide helpful information for ALL readers and always protect the identity of schools and individuals. Questions should be sent to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, fax 020 7782 32023205,

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