Why it’s not all doom and gloom

PUBLISHED: 11:10 27 April 2007 | UPDATED: 20:01 01 June 2010

Former Queen’s School governor MIKE STALLARD

Former Queen’s School governor MIKE STALLARD

The third and final thought-provoking article by former Queen s School governor MIKE STALLARD, following the school s spectacular crash into special measures and the major plans to reconstitute it and give it a new name. WHAT is the Queen s School for?

The third and final thought-provoking article by former Queen's School governor MIKE STALLARD, following the school's spectacular crash into 'special measures' and the major plans to reconstitute it and give it a new name.

WHAT is the Queen's School for? During none of the Governors' meetings, which I attended, can I remember anyone ever asking this question.

If they had, I suppose people would have mumbled something about "education" or "doing the best for our children".

So what is the Queen's School for?

Judging by the parents I meet, it is not for their benefit. They suspiciously watch their children pass through the system. They hear tales about bullying and bad behaviour. They hear people speak about "a yob factory". They read the paper.

They know that there are far too many supply teachers. They know of one or two teachers whose English is very hard to understand. They turn up to parents' evenings and they collect their children from school.

Some of them are "angry". However, they have no choice. It is the Queen's School or nothing. The school is provided by other people for them.

What about the children themselves? Why are they at school? I did ask one boy who was wandering about aimlessly during lesson time why he had bothered to come to school at all. He looked at me as if I was mad. "You 'ave to," he said disdainfully.

A cynic would say schools are there to give the teachers a job. Actually, this is false.

One or two lessons were, in those days, more like a youth club where children wandered about talking to each other with, perhaps, a supply teacher standing hopelessly in the middle.

Disobedient children argued or disappeared into the corridors. It was no wonder some teachers were off with "stress". In the last few months, we have read, in this paper, of a teacher of vast experience who tried to stop a boy running away from a misdemeanour. He has been reinstated now. I wonder how many other organisations treat their experienced professionals like that.

Yet, it is not all doom and gloom: the best teachers, surprisingly, have survived and there are a lot of them at the Queen's School, quietly doing their job. Nevertheless, outsiders tell them exactly what to teach. Other people test their classes.

Maybe the school is there to support local industry and commerce. We had several governors who were from local industry and who knew Wisbech well.

The mayor, that great attender of meetings and events, was usually present, too.

Our governors really did reflect the local community. And yet the school seemed oddly separated from the needs of Wisbech people. Lessons were centrally planned from London. So were the GCSE exams. So were the league tables.

When every child goes to a Grammar School, and gains several GCSEs, even at grade F, they do not want to get their hands dirty or get up early in the morning to do a menial job, do they? They are students. Once again, the school was provided for local people by somebody else.

The truth is that the school existed entirely for the benefit of the Government. The Government controlled the targets. The Government told teachers what to teach. The Government controlled the school exams - SATs, GCSEs, A-level - and, of course, the Government controlled the league tables. And the government was quick to take the credit for any success.

To survive - and, yes, we failed - you had to please Ofsted, which is run by the Government. The Ofsted inspection was what did for us. Gordon Jeyes, from Cambridgeshire, instituted 'special measures' and dismissed the governing body.

The parents, local people, the children, had absolutely no say in the matter.


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