Arcadia versus academia

13th October 2000 at 01:00
"RURAL culture is about making do. What does all this do for my exam results? It murders them," said David Booth, head of a sports college in Shaftesbury, Dorset.

The 650-pupil school was put on special measures in January.

Inspectors criticised its finances, its leadership and management, provision for pupils with special needs and its teaching. It missed a target of 90 per cent of satisfactory lessons by 5 per cent.

Mr Booth, who took over as head in July, believes those problems have been overcome. He says standards have improved and thinks the school should come off special measures before next September.

But he knows deprivation has a major impact on his pupils' learning: "People have seen their farms, smallholdigs and small businesses collapse. It is usual for people to be doing two or three part-time jobs to make ends meet.

"Many of these families cannot afford to run a car, however essential it is. There is poor public transport so pupils have no access to museums, exhibitions, libraries, galleries or sports facilities."

He said low expectations could also damage pupils' chances.

"There is a lot of immobility. Parents were born and brought up locally and they expect their children to stay, joining them on the farm or in the business rather than going to college."

And even with the school back on track, he knows battling the effects of poverty and low expectations in the future will remain a key part of his job.

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