As Victor would say, I don't believe it

1st November 2002 at 00:00
Dear Tony Blair

What a neighbouring school is about to receive adds me to this country's ever-growing list of Victor Meldrews. Discontented, ungrateful and, I fear, middle-aged. You see, a local secondary school has just learned that its application for specialist science college status has been successful.

It is not jealousy that prevents me from rejoicing. You need to know that my last school has also been awarded such status. As an undersubscribed school in a deprived inner city, the money is welcome. However, the school just granted specialist science status is five times oversubscribed and is in a different league altogether, if you'll excuse the pun.

Whereas my last school struggled to achieve double figures in terms of the number of its pupils leaving with five or more GCSE A*-C grades, the other school is regularly only percentage points away from treble figures for five or more GCSE A*-C grades. Yes, you read that correctly. Ninety-five to 100 per cent of its pupils regularly leave with those grades. Unsurprisingly, it is a highly selective school. I thought it had got its lines crossed when I heard it was applying for specialist status.

Surely the Government did not intend to pour more money into such a privileged establishment? Although a small minority of its pupils come from poor homes, the school is well resourced and most pupils receive some of the best teaching the state system can provide - unlike their peers at my former school down the road. They all failed the selection process for admission to the soon-to-be science college, and have to cope with a dearth of well-qualified teachers and textbooks, along with the declining standards of discipline. So when I learned of the selective school's successful bid, I did not believe it.

For goodness sake, their PTA stumped up the tens of thousands of pounds needed to support their bid. What kind of school with such a wealthy PTA needs extra help? To add insult to injury, it's a joke that the school is to specialise in science, as its science department is weak.

But as far as your government is concerned, one more specialist school is one nearer your target of 2,000 specialist schools by 2006. If you are still short of this target by the autumn of 2005, perhaps the DfES could approach Eton, Winchester and Westminster and invite them to apply for specialist college status too.

Jenny Owl is a head of department in a northern comprehensive. She writes under a pseudonym

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