Failure and anger revisited

17th March 2000 at 00:00
I FEEL a sharp twinge of deja vu. In November 1997 you published my letter on the demoralising effect when my school, vindicated by the Office for Standards in Education, was dubbed by the press as "The worst school in the country!"

Since then we have had another successful OFSTED inspection, assimilated 100 pupils from a school closure, changed our name and our uniform and are in the process of attracting a new head.

Why the deja vu then? Well, we have appeared in the papers again, this time on David Blunkett's "Improve or else" hit list.

Sorry? I and my colleagues were under the impression that is precisely what we had been doing. But we have failed again to please yet another set of political masters.

Our exam results are consistently too low. In 1997 we were running with 64 per cent of pupils on the special educational needs register. Today the figure is nearer 74 per cent. The number of children with statements has doubled to 55, 10 per cent of the school.

A different set of conscientious staff are currently trying to extract something positive from the blame culture. Why can't Mr Blunkett see that most of the schools on his list have one startling feature in common?

These schools enable the "better" schools around them to consistently remain better. Behind every group of so-called "good" schools is the sink school which keeps them that way.

My own school no only supports the attractive schools around it but even supports the special education sector by taking pupils earmarked for behavioural difficulties but turned down for places.

Inclusion? Don't make us laugh. We have had to take every waif and stray, asylum-seeker, poor attender et al for years. A colleague from a neighbouring school once remarked to me "I thank God for your school. It keeps all the difficult children in one place, I wouldn't have your job for a big clock."

Our colleagues know the truth, so why is it so hard for Mr Blunkett? I believe that we are a strong, dynamic staff. We turn up, put up and shut up about so much. Each year we hope our work-load might have peaked. Each year there is another set-back to contend with.

Currently, the school is facing a deficit budget so class sizes, already a critical factor, are set to rise. Incidentally, our new headteacher is to be attracted to this challenging post by an enhanced salary.

What about the minions who have been slugging away for years? We will find it very hard to stump up enough reasons why we should receive even a measly pound;2,000 onto our current salaries. No excuse for failure? I'd just like to hear Mr Blunkett's excuse for denying my colleagues and me a fair and equal chance to succeed!

Ruth Simpson

Special educational needs


The Ramsgate school

Ramsgate, Kent

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