We're not bad even though we are closing

2nd August 1996 at 01:00
As the current headteacher of the school referred to by Hilary Wilce (TES, July 19), I too am devastated by the decision to close John Lea School, as I am sure her father Jack Wilce, a former head, would have been. It is, therefore, disappointing to see her fall into the trap of assuming that as the school is to close it must be a bad school. In truth, John Lea has struggled against the odds for many years and the situation we are in is a textbook illustration of both local education authority and government actions over the past few years.

In 1988, Northants LEA proposed a re-organisation of secondary education; John Lea was to become a tertiary college. These proposals did not go through, but public confidence in the future of the school as an 11-18 comprehensive was undermined. This resulted in a small and academically weak intake for several years. Just as the school was recovering, with a growing roll, the first intake following the re-organisation proposals obtained unusually low GCSE results, and a neighbouring school that had benefited from gaining many of our more academic pupils obtained particularly good results.

Around this time, all the other town schools became grant maintained. Ironically, although John Lea's GCSE results have steadily improved over the past three years, the overall balance of our intake has worked against us in trying to compete for students through enrolment.

A small intake in 1995 led to further rumours that the school was to close. Although our finances have been well-managed and we have never had a deficit budget, we have had to reduce staffing and reluctantly stop teaching small and hence uneconomic A-level classes, further undermining confidence in the school. These factors resulted in only 14 parents choosing the school for September, making it financially and therefore educationally unviable in the medium term.

Although more secondary places will be needed in the future, the LMS formula apparently made it difficult for the LEA to provide assistance and so a reluctant decision was made to close John Lea in two years' time, despite overwhelming support for the school from current and past parents and students, and the local community.

John Lea is not and has never been a bad school. Like all schools, it has strengths and weaknesses. We have built on our strengths and worked on our weakness during my first year as head. My biggest regret is that now there will not be the opportunity to see that work bear fruit. However, like Jack Wilce, I am proud to be head of John Lea, and intend to make sure the closure is a dignified process for all concerned, including as Jack Wilce would have done, "countering any denigration".

STEVE RICHARDSON John Lea School Doddington Road Wellingborough Northants

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today