'Worst school' does a great job against the odds

28th November 1997 at 00:00
I am the special needs co-ordinator of what has been negatively and quite wrongly cited as "the worst school in England".

I have worked at this school for nearly a decade. I am neither mentally deranged nor such a poor teacher that I am incapable of finding a post anywhere else.

I work at The Ramsgate School because it has been a very rewarding experience. I judge this by having worked in leafy London suburbs, inner-cities, and even in pastoral Devon. I've worked in the largest comprehensive school in Britain. Now apparently I work in the "worst" secondary modern.

I also have the least-envied job because 70 per cent of our pupils have considerable learning and behavioural needs and are my responsibility. I have seen this school take in pupils repeatedly who have failed in other schools. We have a pupil currently integrating who has been out of the mainstream since infants school.

Our school is the bleak side of the coin labelled "selection". Any system with as many filters in it as ours is going to produce one school which picks up and successfully runs with the products everyone else tactfully avoids.

This is not a failing school. It is not a school which fails its pupils or doesn't live up to parental expectations. It is a school which opens its doors to the insecure and vulnerable. It provides a safe, caring learning environment in a world which has precious little of those values anywhere else in it. It enables pupils with considerable needs to progress.

I have been teaching mainstream special educational needs pupils for more than 15 years. I now teach a large number of pupils who, formerly, would have been in special schools. I have had to acquire new skills just to cope.

This year I have 13 11-year-olds in one group, all of whom are non-readers or virtual non-readers. I apparently have four-and-a-half years to get them five GCSEs at grades A-C. I have not given up, but I realise the likelihood of this happening is about as likely as me speaking fluent Russian after two days' tuition. I am obviously going wrong somewhere.

After all, the Government wants even more pupils currently in special schools to integrate into mainstream. Will the doors be flung open at the local grammar school? Why should they become involved in such a scheme? They are over-subscribed as it is. It's a case of genteel "not in my backyard" syndrome.

I, and my colleagues at The Ramsgate School - some of whom have worked here for more than years, are dedicated and Office for Standards in Education-vindicated professionals. A system which devalues our contribution, and shatters our self-esteem and that of our pupils is both shameful and flawed.

RUTH EMM

Special needs co-ordinator The Ramsgate School Stirling Way Ramsgate, Kent Kent

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