Week in perspective

10th March 2000 at 00:00
OLD problems and new faces dominated the week. Just days after David Blunkett threatened failing secondaries with closure unless they raised their game, teachers in deprived areas found an unlikely ally - the inspectors.

A draft report by the Office for Standards in Education calls for more money for schools in disadvantaged areas.

It also acknowledges that teachers in these areas face an uphill task teaching children from communities marked by poor health, dislocation, disaffection and high levels of drug and alcohol abuse. Despite that, the schools are improving faster than their better-off counterparts.

The report, Improving City Schools points out that only 10 secondaries in deprived areas get anywhere near the average of 46 per cent of pupils achieving five of more higher-grade (A*-C) GCSEs. Schools which succeed against the odds have strong management teams, use support teachers effectively and have a high standard of teaching.

However, the problems that schools face in dealing with disruptive pupils were again highlighted this week, when a nine year old girl announced she intends to sue her primary for failing to protect her from bullies.

Verity Ward will seek damages for physical and psychological damage against Bramcote Hills school in Nottingham. She also hopes to win an injunction forcing the school to protect her. The youngster claims she was slapped and kicked by a gang of bullies, was subjected to daily abuse and had her fingers trapped in a door.

Marie Stubbs, the new head of St George's School in north-west London will be hoping she manages to avoid such difficulties. She has been chosen to save the school from permanent closue after fresh outbreaks of violence forced it to close for an extended half-term.

Westminster council has given her a year to turn around the school where headteacher Philip Lawrence was stabbed by a gang of youths.

In an effort to stem the tide of disorder, the Government is drawing up plans to tag children as young as 12 who become involved in violence and other crimes.

Young people who commit serious offences would be put under surveillance and made to wear an electronic tag similar to those worn by adult offenders. Reports suggest that pilot projects could begin this summer.

This week also saw the appointment of Heather du Quesnay, acting chief executive of Lambeth, as the first head of the Government's new leadership college when it opens in September.

Although she is a respected figure within education, the choice of Mrs du Quesnay - a former deputy head and chief education officer for both Hertfordshire and Lambeth - will be a disappointment to those hoping a serving headteacher would be given the post.

Meanwhile, Labour's deputy chief whip, Keith Bradley, had to defend himself against accusations of hypocrisy after his son left his local comprehensive for a selective independent school.

Mr Bradley removed his son from Parrs Wood high school after just four days and sent him to Manchester Grammar, one of the top five boys' independent schools in England.

Conservative education spokeswoman Theresa May attacked the Government for allowing senior figures to send their children to private school while abolishing assisted places.

But Chris Woodhead, the chief inspector, praised Mr Bradley for putting his son first.

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