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To expect my grandchildren to be given a good education?

(64 Posts)
gillybob Wed 16-Oct-13 15:35:41

I have mentioned before that my grandchildren go to a school with a very poor Ofsted report. I am becomming more and more disillusioned with the schools "we are working towards......." attitude and want to see some action.

On Monday I was helping my 7 year old with her homework. The five year old mentioned that she had not had a reading book for several weeks. She could read well when she started school (as could her older sister) and is a very bright child (despite the school). I asked her why she didnt have a book and she said that the teacher said she didnt have time to see where she was at with reading as most of her classmates are only just learning to read. She asked me to write a note to the teacher and I said that I wouldn't write a note but I would have a word with her at "in time", which I did. I said I appreciated that she was busy with other children but could she please at least have a reading book ( and ideally some homework) as she is becomming bored with school. The teacher smiled and very patronisingly said "Oh dear we can't have that can we? I will see what I can do". at this point my darling little grandaughter handed the teacher a note that read:

Dear Teecha

Can you plees give G a readin book plees and some homwurk aswel.

Love Grandma xx

We both burst out laughing but still no reading book or homework either !
angry I wonder what it will take.

Riverwalk Fri 18-Oct-13 11:34:38

gillybob I hate to be obvious and apologise if you've already given a reason but why can't you change schools?

I appreciate that that is not an easy thing to do because of availability, journey time, etc. but your grandchild's school does sounds appalling.

gillybob Fri 18-Oct-13 11:41:33

Hi Riverwalk Their school is quite new (2011) and is the result of the amalgamation of the three primary schools that were within reasonable distance. There is one other school which is an over subscribed Catholic school for which I understand (having spoke to their secretary) there is a very large waiting list. So no chance to change schools.

Riverwalk Fri 18-Oct-13 11:54:13

Sad state of affairs gillybob - no wonder parents want to set up Free Schools.

It might be as well to register with the over-subscribed school - it does no harm to be on the waiting list.

Your granddaughter has as much right to attend that school as anyone else, it's publicly-funded.

Mamie Fri 18-Oct-13 12:03:28

Thanks Gillybob, so it is a school that "requires improvement" rather than special measures.
It sounds as if staffing may be a major problem. It is quite usual to have split classes (my own GD's outstanding school has them), but if you have high turnover of staff and supply teachers then it obviously doesn't make it any easier for them. I think as the support team has been in and has now left, then it is really important to put your concerns in writing, factually and unemotionally, and with lots of evidence, such as the homework story. If it is a Local Authority school, copy the letter to them.
If you can't move her then I think that is the most you can do for now, apart from continuing to support her reading, taking her on educational visits etc
Very hard, I know.

Riverwalk Fri 18-Oct-13 12:28:45

Mamie does it really matter if the school is classified as "requires improvement" rather than "special measures"?

(From where do they create these obscure phrases? hmm)

Surely both indicate that the school is crap!

Elegran Fri 18-Oct-13 12:49:42

Crap is a generalisation, Riverwalk. The labels indicate the depth of the doo-doo, and how much help the inspector thinks the staff will need to shovel it up.

Mamie Fri 18-Oct-13 12:52:22

Yes it does matter, Riverwalk, because it decides what measures are put in place. It is part of a complex, regulated framework of accountability; if you are interested, you will find details on the Ofsted site.
I cannot see how setting up a Free school which may have unqualified and untrained teachers will help. I think we have all seen the consequences of that in Derby this week.
If you look at the Ofsted bulletin that I posted up thread, you will see that a minority of schools fall into the group that is not "outstanding" or "good". Obviously one failing school is one too many, there is no place for complacency, but school improvement is complex and a long hard road.
Thinking that someone can sprinkle fairy dust and improve a school overnight is naive and not very helpful.

JessM Fri 18-Oct-13 13:01:34

Yes, to improve the school, you have to improve the quality of teaching which either means lots of coaching etc for existing staff or replacing them. You cannot just sack em if they are doing "satisfactory" lessons however much you want them to do good or better ones. And even if they go, you may struggle to find someone better to replace them.

Riverwalk Fri 18-Oct-13 13:06:48

"part of a complex regulated framework of accountability"


"but school improvement is complex and a long hard road"

How does this help "gillybob" and her grandchildren ... how long must they wait?

I'm not naive and have would never advocate fairy dust.

Mamie Fri 18-Oct-13 13:34:35

If you are going to improve something you need to know what good practice and good results look like, hence the need for a framework.
School improvement involves finding the right school leaders from an ever diminishing pool (recruitment and retention is a huge problem especially in challenging catchment areas) improving the quality of teaching and governance and having good structures in place for assessment, behaviour management etc etc
Finland comes out top of the national tables over and over again. They have set out what they wanted to achieve, recruited the top 10% of graduates as teachers and have had an uninterrupted policy for school improvement for forty years. I don't think I need to spell out how this is different from England.
I am trying to help Gillybob by getting a clear picture of the issues in the school and suggesting what she can actually do to try and improve things. I would gently suggest that is more helpful than describing the school as crap.

harrigran Fri 18-Oct-13 16:56:14

Where we are, describing a school as crap is almost a compliment. I was lucky I was able to remove my children to private schools in the next city.

FlicketyB Fri 18-Oct-13 21:08:25

But when looking at Finland people forget to mention one key fact that I think is every bit as important as good teaching - small schools. the average secondary school has fewer than 200 pupils. Primary schools are smaller.

Finnish children attend schools where all the teachers know who they are and they know who most of their fellow pupils are and all of their teachers. They are part of a small community and can be seen and appreciated as individuals and the security and confidence that gives must enhance learning

We warehouse children of all ages into enormous schools where children cannot even know every child in their year group let alone in the school. In those circumstances teachers can only know those they teach or tutor but very few beyond that. British Schools are like towns, you may know your neighbours but not people living three streets away. In Finland, schools are like villages, where you know everybody.

gillybob Fri 18-Oct-13 23:11:19

I truly envy you harrigran I would give anything to be in the position to afford a decent education for my grandchildren . Chatting to my 2 granddaughters on the telephone tonight ( they would normally be here but I have to go to an emergency hospital appointment with my mum early in the morning) made me feel quite tearful. The oldest (7) confirmed that she was definitely going to be a vet. Her daddy has just had an operation on his hand and she is fascinated by the stitches, but admitted that she likes animals more than humans. Her little sister (5) butting in said " yes grandma but I will be a nurse and I will look after daddy's hand even better, and I can already do bandages really good".

.....and they say money can't buy happiness.

harrigran Sat 19-Oct-13 00:30:00

gillybob it was the best thing we ever did but it was only from 11 years of age. I had help from my sister as she didn't have any children. We never had holidays or any luxuries for years and years but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Do you have a Free school nearby ? We have one in Sunderland, my hairdresser's children attend and she is thrilled with the way they are progressing.

harrigran Sat 19-Oct-13 00:58:28

I have searched for Free schools and apart from Grindon Hall there only appears to be Cramlington Primary School. A friend's daughter was at Albert E.... primary and she managed to transfer her to Cleadon.

FlicketyB Tue 22-Oct-13 10:44:19

DH and I were both state educated, but like you, Harrigran, we struggled financially to have our children privately educated from 11.

It made me very angry because the state primary school DC attended, which was a 'good' school, acknowledged DS's ability, he was up a year and coming top in all the assessment tests they did back in the 1970s. The school advised us not to try for too academic a school for him as he might not pass the entrance exam. They said this without any awareness of what this said about the education they had given him.

Other educational authorities admitted that, because he was a quiet, pleasant well-behaved child, he would probably under-achieve at secondary school because teachers would just pass over him for not being troublesome. Nobody considered that he had any entitlement in the state system to an education that was fit for him.

He went to a good, but not outstanding, private school which nurtured their pupils. They nurtured his passion for a subject not on the school curriculum, but made him learn the basics which he would willingly have ignored. As a result I have a happy and fulfilled son workingsuccessfully in a profession he loves, even if it is not one that brings extensive financial rewards.

gillybob Tue 22-Oct-13 11:25:24

There is no way ( short of winning the lottery) that our family could afford to send three children to private school. For us it would not be a case of doing without holidays and luxuries it would be a case if not eating, paying mortgage etc. What really annoys me is why the school has been allowed to slide like this. As I mentioned before this was a brand new school 2011 and had a completely clean slate. Where and how did it all go wrong?

harrigran Tue 22-Oct-13 12:05:55

it was a great shame when they removed the assisted places at independent schools. My son went to the Royal Grammar in Newcastle and there were boys there that got the education they deserved through this scheme. When I spoke to the head of DC's primary school she said that bright children do well anywhere. The head had acknowledged DD's intelligence by sending her on a gifted children's course but tried to deter me from applying to an independent school. I wish now that they could have gone at primary level because the primary maths, at local school, was so poor that DH had to tutor them in basic maths.

annodomini Tue 22-Oct-13 12:41:52

Two of my GC are having a very good education at their local primary school which is 'outstanding' and has lots of enrichment activities. Their mother is a secondary maths teacher and has no complaints about the teaching. She would say so, if she had. The other two GSs do not seem to be in such a good primary school which has recently become an academy. This does not seem to be a guarantee of quality.

gillybob Tue 22-Oct-13 13:14:56

I agree with the head of your DC's primary school to some extent Harrigran you cannot make a child intelligent if they are not that way inclined but what you can do is give them the best education possible and encourage them to do the best they can. My two GD's loved school. They love learning. Speaking to other parents and grandparents in the school yard it is apparent that a lot of children are saying they no longer want to go to school and the reason they seem to give is that they either don't like their teacher or they don't know who will be teaching them from one day to the next.

After asking my youngest GD's teacher yet again this morning for a reading book and speaking to my DIL on the telephone we have decided that we are going to make a formal complaint. It is not just about the reading book. She has plenty of books at home and at mine and can whizz through a book no problem it is the fact that (as other people have mentioned) there should be a structured reading program in the class. The excuses I have had range from " I have been too busy, she is brighter than her classmates, I don't know where to start her off" and usually followed by "I will get it sorted this week, I promise. I am starting to wonder how much teaching actually goes on within the classroom.

Mamie Tue 22-Oct-13 13:50:28

Gillybob, I can only repeat my earlier advice to write a letter clearly outlining the issues. Send it to the Chair of Governors and the Headteacher and copy it to the Local Authority (unless it is an Academy). Have a look on the LA's website to find out who is the senior adviser for primary education. From everything you say, it sounds as if there is a serious problem with the recruitment and retention of staff at the school.
For what it is worth OH and I both went to independent schools. We had no issues about sending our children to state school where they did very well and our grandchildren also go to an excellent state primary.
I don't think any of that helps you or your grandchildren and I can only urge you to keep raising your concerns. It sounds as if other parents will be doing the same.

FlicketyB Tue 22-Oct-13 16:11:41

I get furious when teachers say 'bright children do well anywhere' No they don't, a lot of the brightest, in particular, get bored, lost and confused and start just messing around or just drift into a world of their own. In extremis they truant and get into trouble.

In primary school DS was frequently bored and mentally unchallenged in class. His coping tactic was to completely disconnect from classroom life and disappear into a world of his own that was so complete that he failed to hear people speaking to him or what a teacher had said so often that he was referred to a clinic for hearing tests. DD looked at one point as if she was going down the truant and trouble route. Fortunately we could afford to pay for education, much as we disliked being forced into that option. That was the 1980s

Now DGD is at school, the attitude to brighter children is so different, they seem to be encouraged to stretch themselves and teachers are pleased when they do well.

Mishap Tue 22-Oct-13 16:30:11

The "requires improvement" category used to be titled "satisfactory." Any school, however good, has things it can improve on. Visiting schools and getting a feel for their ethos and how happy the children are is the best way forward. Children will learn in an atmosphere of calm and safety, and where the teachers enjoy what they do. These are better markers of a school's suitability for your child, than the views of a "hit and run" visit from people who do not know the community.

It is a disgrace when children are obliged by law to spend their time at school, but the state is not obliged by law to ensure that those schools are good ones. The problem of course is that people define "good" in so many different ways. For some it is a happy environment, for others academic hot-housing, for others the installation of a particular faith.

Paying for education is not always the answer - we paid at three different schools, and all failed our children for different reasons.

FlicketyB Tue 22-Oct-13 16:45:12

To my mind none of those criteria makes a good school. A school that puts a happy environment ahead of helping children learn is failing as is one that indulges in academic hot-housing. A good school can be committed to any faith or none - and so can a bad school.

I think a good school is one where children enjoy learning and get the help and encouragement they need to achieve the best they can regardless of ability and where individual skills and abilities are recognised whether academic, practical or artistic.

Mamie Tue 22-Oct-13 16:51:11

You have lost me there Mishap. Are you saying schools should or should not be inspected? How can you judge if schools are adequate without some sort of inspection framework and judgement?
There is some interesting stuff here on the blog written by Janet Downs.
Very interesting that more independent schools than state schools are found to be unsatisfactory in Ofsted inspections.