The Fate of The Wakeman School

Edward Anderson's picture
 5
Dear LSN,
I am writing to inform you that a local comprehensive in my area has been approved for closure. The school in question is The Wakeman School and has been approved despite gaining 61.5% A* - C inc Eng and Maths, which is a 16% rise on last years performance.
I have to admit that the closure is personal to me and my two older sisters attended the school and even when we were attending, rumours had been circulating of its closure.
This rumour, never squashed by the Council, led to a self - fulfilling prophecy in which parents in droves stated they would send their children to The Wakeman but were told the school would close. It was only when it was officially announced that the examples of primary school heads parents not to send their children to The Wakeman, years before, came out. As a result, pupil numbers collapsed and the Council got ready to wield the axe.
Personally, I thought that they had a case on purely educational grounds. I have always stated it is hard to defend a school which gets less than 50% A*-C inc Eng & Maths. What I found bizarre is that a decision was to be made before these years results came out. However, the consultation had to be re-opened reported because places granted to The Wakeman pupils didn't exist. The school in question has now had to disrupt pupils’ education at another school for Wakeman pupils who have already left, making the notion of there being a smooth transition ridiculous.
More sinister however, is the adjacent empty plot of land where Shrewsbury Town F.C football ground used to reside. It has now passed through the hands of several property developer/speculators (depending on your view), who despite housing shortages, didn't build on it. The plot thickens...
Even at the school, we knew what the hold up was. If you were making luxury properties at a scenic river location, the last thing you want is children next door. So low and behold. Just as it was all but a done deal the school would close, development starts. There is a tide of feeling that believes that the interest of developers has been put before children’s education. It is also an example of a council not supporting its local comprehensives, a cause I believe that the LSN fights for.
I'm going to be honest, it's already late in the day. Not only have pupils but some of the best teachers have also done a runner. Some have had to take early retirement and as teachers are laid off because of a lack of pupils to take their subject, morale has to have been hit. I hold no ill will to those teachers who have jumped, they have mortgaged to pay and families to feed.
My concern is for the pupils who will be left with a lack of teachers who have expertise of subjects, a disrupted education and many forced to leave whilst taking their G.C.S.Es. So as I said, it's late in the game ... but not over.
I must also admit, I share a different view to this site on many issues. I don't like the view that "Some children aren't best for academic subjects" because "some children" always ends up meaning working class children, which is as patronising as you can get. I don't like our comprehensive system as it confines working class kids to the worst schools purely on wealth (or lack of) regardless of their ability.
I despise the fact that many kids, working class kids, are pushed to do BTECs and other soft options which damages their future prospects just to help a schools league tables results. I will admit to the ultimate sin, I think academies and free schools are a massive improvement on what we have now.
This isn't the issue for now though, it's about something far more important. That is, the education of those who have been left behind. So I am asking you to see if you can do anything at all to raise the profile on behalf of The Wakeman,
Whether it's writing a letter of support to the Head and pupils, running an article for the school or, what would be welcomed, dragging one of your prominent figureheads to pay a visit.
In haste,
Edward. Anderson
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Comments

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 22/09/2011 - 14:50

According to the Shropshire Star there is a campaign still going on to save the school. Unfortunately, when a school is earmarked for closure numbers will continue to fall. This gives those who want the school closed a further excuse.

http://www.shropshirestar.com/education/2011/09/13/top-lib-dem-backs-wak...

Helen Fletcher's picture
Tue, 27/09/2011 - 18:05

Please don't give up hope, the fight for The Wakeman is far from over, Edward.

My elder daughter attends the school and my younger hopes to join her there next year. Just to put you straight on a couple of points, the education of the children currently at the school is not suffering, and there are still plenty of excellent and committed teachers in the school. My daughter is thriving there and I would not consider sending her anywhere else. Ofsted inspected in March while the consultation was underway and gave The Wakeman a very positive report which confirms my personal experience. The report ('Good' with 'Outstanding' features) and recent GCSE results (61% A-C including English and Maths) also show that the school does well educationally too. It's true that some, although not all, other schools in town get higher results, but The Wakeman's very impressive standard of care and inclusive ethos means that it has a high proportion of children with special educational needs and of children who have been excluded from other local schools and this impacts on the statistics. Children there achieve well and the school has continued to prioritise the education and care of the students while this terrible situation has been going on.

Shropshire Council does not have justification for closing the school that it needs, the way that it has undertaken the proposal and consultation does not follow the appropriate statutory guidance, and I am confident that the decision will be overturned. The Local Government Ombudsman, who oversees Local Authority decisions, is currently investigating numerous fundamental complaints about the proposal and consultation- one of which is that educational standards have not been considered as they should have been. In addition, the Church of England is so concerned about the decision that it has taken the very rare step of referring the case of this non-church school to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator for appeal- and one of its concerns, again, is that Shropshire Council has not made an educational case for its proposal as it must do. The Adjudicator is independent and has the authority to overturn the decision to close the school. The Adjudicator's decision is legally binding and s/he can, and does, save schools. The decision is also quick (6 weeks or so), minimising the damage done to schools by the closure process. It's true that pupil numbers at the school have been damaged by rumours in recent years, and have dropped further as a result of the proposal to close the school, but despite all that has been going on new children joined the school in every year group this September. I am confident that, with its future secure and rumours finally scotched once and for all, the school will thrive again. As I wrote at the beginning, please don't give up on The Wakeman- I'm very hopeful that next September my younger daughter will be starting her secondary education there and that the school will be here for many years to come.

Best wishes,

Helen

Edward Anderson's picture
Thu, 29/09/2011 - 08:24

Dear Helen,
Please don't take it that I have given up. The reason I put this on here was to raise the profile of our School and the great work that goes on there. Your right to comment on the massively improved results and I hope that this years can be even better.
I also saw the comments from the church and if you could put the link up on this site that would help. I hope to make this a regular thing because I know that being outside London it won't get the focus it deserves unless we keep people informed.
Just starting to think that if I had kept my mouth shut about it might have helped but I will keep banging the drum and I hope everyone connected to the Wakeman does to.
All the best,
Edward

Edward Anderson's picture
Thu, 29/09/2011 - 08:32

Correction: "if i had kept my mouth shut about it might have helped " should read "if i had kept my mouth shut about academies and free schools might have helped"

Helen Fletcher's picture
Fri, 30/09/2011 - 14:34

Dear Edward,

It's great that you have raised the profile of The Wakeman on this website- I posted something on here myself early in the campaign asking if anyone had any helpful experience and/or advice in challenging the Council! It was good to read your concerns about the children caught up in this- the staff are doing a brilliant job by them and the students I know love the school and are fiercely loyal to it, but the whole situation is, of course, extremely unsettling. Incidentally, if anyone else out there is facing a similar situation, I can't recommend the following website highly enough-

http://parentsagainstschoolclosure.davesinfocafe.com/

The link to the church's website explaining their decision which you requested is

http://www.lichfield.anglican.org/news&newsID=840

The latest news is that The Wakeman remains a choice for parents in Shropshire Council's admissions forms for Year 6s moving up to secondary school this September. Under their proposal the school is not supposed to admit any children in that year so they are clearly not certain the decision will stand. And the school held its Year 6 Open Evening last night which was busy and positive and showed the school at its vibrant best.

Thank you for your support,

Best wishes,

Helen

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