Hackney's successes overlooked

3rd October 1997 at 01:00
The Office for Standards in EducationHM Inspectorate report on Hackney education authority (TES, September 26) is profoundly disappointing, misleading and contradictory. It fails to highlight the huge achievements, against enormous odds, of Hackney children, their schools and their teachers.

This report's failure brings into question, once again, the objectivity and professionalism of OFSTED and suggests that it has become a political tool of the government in power.

The OFSTED team agreed at the Hackney education committee (September 23) that: * Hackney secondary schools - on the narrowest and most academic measure of five or more passes at GCSE A to C - are, this year, in the top 10 of the fastest-improving local education authorities in the country.

* Since 1990, Hackney children have achieved on this indicator, 114 per cent improvement at GCSE:from 14 per cent to 32 per cent this year. The GCSE A-G results have followed a similar pattern and are among the highest in inner London.

* One in three of Hackney children taking the highly questionable key stage 2 tests, aged 11, has not been present for the full course because of their mobility. The figure for key stage 1 - aged seven - is that only one in five takes the full course.

* If other LEAs had the same social composition as Hackney, there would five million refugees in this country. The leader of the inspection team said that this would amount to "the biggest national crisis since the Second World War".

Not one of these statements appears in the OFSTED report. How does it address these issues? "Secondary schools are having some, albeit limited, success in raising attainment."

If we are to raise children's achievement and attainment throughout the country we have to acknowledge and praise success, as well as spotlight obstacles. To give credit to the OFSTED report, it highlights, properly, the context of Hackney as "one of the most impoverished urban areas in western Europe".

Of course, "there are miles to go before we sleep" (Robert Frost) to raise achievement further. However, in the words of the OFSTED report: "In these circumstances the first need is - to state the obvious again - to retain optimism." This report has failed to do so.


Hackney Teachers Association 219 Mare Street London E8

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