Life was never as black as painted

21st February 2003 at 00:00
AS an assistant headteacher and member of staff for 22 years at Firth Park community arts college until this summer, I was interested in your comments on the school in your supplement on Sheffield (TES, January 17).

Your piece, unfortunately, does a disservice to the school and its staff before the arrival of the current headteacher in 1995.

In 1995, the school was not and never had been in "special measures". That year's Office for Standards in Education report identified three departments and attendance (82.5 per cent not 76 per cent as reported) as particular concerns and, as a result, the school was deemed by the local education authority to have "serious weaknesses".

Nevertheless, Ofsted generally praised the school which, it said, gave "value for money", and provided a satisfactory or better quality of teaching in 87 per cent of lessons. Welfare and guidance of pupils was good.

One year after the head's arrival, the benchmark five A* to C figure peaked on a rising trend of 19.4 per cent. Over the next three years it plunged to a low of 11.6 per cent before rising again to its current 22.2 per cent.

However, this latest figure includes GNVQ grades. In real terms, the school has, in fact, only now returned to its GCSE success of seven years ago.

Much good work is being done at Firth Park by a staff which has borne the brunt of overwhelming change. But it seems a great pity that in order to proclaim an impression of rapid advancement, history has been re-written of a school that will be remembered for its harmony and happiness.

VK Lockwood

1 Brincliffe Edge Close, Sheffield

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