The Academy, the blogger teacher and the Tory party: a parable for our times

Francis Gilbert's picture
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There's an interesting article by Mike Kent in the TES today (http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6060827) in which he talks about the now infamous blogger teacher, Katherine Birbalsingh. This teacher spoke out about school indiscipline at the Tory Party conference and has been making headlines ever since because she was suspended by the Academy where she taught. She now seems to be re-instated -- with the help of her left-wing union the NUT! Mike Kent points out that the school which she complained about at the Tory Party conference has a long history behind it. The narrative of the school's decline is a damning indictment of government policy, both Labour and Tory.  It appears that the school was once a well-run, orderly place, but suffered greatly when 1988 Education Act kicked in. During the last two decades it has slipped down the league tables, suffered from high staff turnover and chronic indiscipline as savvy parents migrated to other schools, leaving it with the children of the poor and disenfranchised. At the moment, the school has been given notice to improve (http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/oxedu_reports/display/(id)/121139) by the Schools' Inspectorate. The Ofsted report suggests that the behaviour of the students is not good at all. As Birbalsingh herself pointed out league tables have played a big role in this and I would suggest a 'cover-up' culture whereby management won't admit problems. The school is in a similar position to my local secondary school was a few years ago. However, this school, Bethnal Green Technology College, worked with the local authority to turn things around, sorting out problems to do with misbehaviour, and now has some of the best results in the borough. The headteacher there focused on getting great teachers; it's now paying off. I feel that it's now the best school in the area. I have sympathy for Birbalsingh in that she's clearly working in a school with problems; but the solution is not Tory party policy. It will make things worse! We need to get schools working together with the local authority and the local community to turn things around.
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