This article was written by Ella Lewis with the assistance of Alistair Gibson (both current students at MGS). They are both members of the Facebook group opposed to the academy whose membership now stands at 215, most of whom are current and ex students in the Rother Valley.
So many have presented their own views on an academy that it’s easy to forget the people who know the school best and who will be most affected; us students.
Our first issue is that Academies were never developed for wealthy, rural areas like Midhurst. Do we really want to be Guinea Pigs to a financially motivated scheme that is barely five years old? Where’s the consultation of students? Consideration of teachers? Contrary to how we’ve been interpreted, an acceptance of the inevitability of a two-tier system does not equate to support of an academy. We now learn though that contrary to what they have said to us previously, that these ideas of an academy have gone back to even as early as May 2007. Most of the teachers we’ve approached have seemed reluctant to quote one way or another, honesty is not considered as important as the security of their job. This should not be the case.
Where is the ULT money coming from? Is it a non-sustainable fund? They say that neither they nor their affiliates profit, but how can that be so when they are funding such huge projects? Students feel questions have been fielded with promotional comments rather than answered.
We want to know what our friends and siblings will be learning under this business run regime. The curriculum is being presented in such a vague way; we can’t be expected to put our faith in this progressive, unregulated set of subjects. Will we be taught creationism over Darwinism by this Christian society? Not to mention the utterly unfounded claims that are being pushed left right and centre by politically motivated councillors. How can the low pass rates of academies even compete with results of 66% 5 A*- C for GCSEs? They say that the education of the youth in the Rother valley is key in the academy plans, but Robert Back has said that the plan is money motivated in order to get a new building. We do not want our education to be placed in the hands of people who think like that.
So far, all we can see that is remotely better about this academy is the newer building, which may well be made available to us anyway, without losing control of the school, through the Building Schools for the Future scheme, which surely is a realistic time scale for the new academy to be built anyway? In the meantime, why not amalgamate the existing schools in the perfectly fine Midhurst grammar school site? With a new multi-million pound sports hall and four very spacious buildings at our disposal, surely this is the ideal solution for all, not more endless upheaval and disruption at such a crucial time in our academic careers.
In the last meeting, we had the chance to hear the words of the principal of Swindon Academy, who spoke to us about how similar a situation she was in and how it is good for her now. But she is very much mistaken by this judgement. She is from an inner-city school, in heavy competition from others very close to her, rather than the very spacious catchment area of the Rother valley. She spoke about sending students on foreign trips and on expeditions. Excellent, we agree, but Midhurst Grammar already has many foreign trips running anyway. Examples include the school orchestra touring Germany, appropriate subject trips like Swanage Bay for Geography, and a fantastic school history of sixth form trips such as Paris and WorldChallenge. She was speaking about finally being able to choose courses that are very good for special educational needs. We already cater to people who fit this description, with students attending courses at Chichester College and being supported by specialist staff. Yet another example of the consultation offering things in an attempt to persuade us we’ll be profiting, and avoiding the truth that these are things we already have.
Why then are the “independent” consultancy agency talking of their close relationship with ULT and dangling advertisement for the Academy in front of us? A company, whom we are told are completely unbiased, is running one sided meetings, giving more time to promotion for the academy than the very strong community feeling at the moment against the proposals. Are we meant not to question what is laid before us? The consultancy has worked for ULT on many other occasions to secure them an academy deal; this was always bound to raise questions on the validity of the so called consultation process running at the moment?
They talk of designing a very clever building, to incorporate the gradual build up in the three tier system currently used. I would urge you to look at the other academies owned by ULT on their website; most will probably feel they would not fit in one bit in Midhurst.
Overall, we wish to ask the question: Why have the students been asked their views only ten days before the end of the consultation? Many of us have very strong views about the matter which seem to have been overlooked by ULT and the consultants as we are young. Do we not matter? Or do they know how we feel and want it kept quiet?