Thursday, 14 February 2008

What an Insult!

What an insult! Those of our readers who have access to the Midhurst and Petworth Observer may have read the letter penned by ex- Midhurst Grammar School Governor Malcolm Blair-Robinson in today's edition. It was Mr Blair-Robinson, a former local authority co-opted governor, who let the cat out of the bag in October by prematurely going public with his Academy proposal, endorsed by his ally Cllr Dunn. Today he reveals the real depth of his contempt for the school on whose governing body he sat. With one sweep he condemns, universally, the 'disgracefully poor teaching' and 'astonishing complacency' at Midhurst Grammar. Teachers, along with generations of parents and pupils will be deeply insulted and hurt by his words.

Mr Blair-Robinson then resorts to the baldest of scare-mongering tactics to counter NAME's successful campaigning. He argues that if we don't accept a privatized Academy, we may have no school at all. If he seriously thinks that the Secretary of State for Education would countenance the complete dismantling of secondary provision in the Rother Valley, leaving the North West of West Sussex with no post-11 schooling whatsoever, he is living in cloud cuckoo land! Does he imagine that that Surrey and Hampshire Local Authorities would just pick up the slack?!

Blair-Robinson's real aim is simply to try to discredit NAME. And sadly, he does so with personal insults against a respected local vicar and former teacher of 30-years standing. Rev. Boxley's days at Midhurst Grammar, we are told, were 'dark days', and his tenure at the school (1973-2006) was a 'slapdash era'! This period, we are told, must be cast into the long grass of history, for now we are moving on... into a bold new phase of nineteenth century charitable and private schooling. There are around 23,000 schools in the country, of which the government plans to privatize 400 - MGS being one of these. To suggest, then, that the era of public ownership and control of schools is over is still mere free-marketeers' fantasy. Blair-Robinson writes that we in NAME 'hanker after the principle that public control is best'. YES WE DO. We believe that like the vast majority of schools in the country, our secondary schools in West Sussex should be publicly run, publicly owned, publicly accountable, and have the best educational interests of the public at their heart. Academies, with their private sponsors can never wholly do this.

If you have not read Mr Blair-Robinson's attack on Midhurst Grammar School, and its staff, and his complete disavowal of public service principles, we urge you to do so, and to write to the newspaper in response.


Trabb's Boy said...

Let's not forget that Mr Blair-Robinson was not a governor in the traditional. He was placed on the board- for the period in which MGS was in special measures- by Cllr Dunn, who has been the one pushing for an academy from the start.

Trabb's Boy said...

Sorry, that would be "in the traditional sense" in previous comment.

Anonymous said...

Academy could be secondary saviour

Ex-governor: School numbers are falling to critical levels

There are several things those campaigning against the proposal to open a new Academy in Midhurst need to consider.

Without a bold initiative there is no certainty secondary education can be sustained in Midhurst at all.

Such is the historically poor performance and unpopularity of the Grammar at the apex of the Rother Valley system that numbers entering the final stages are now down to a critical level.

We all know and admire the effort, late in the day and after a period of denial, which this school has made to pull itself together.

Yet such is the fall in cohort numbers, the impact on its financing is beginning to bite and will bite ever deeper.

To illustrate this, research will reveal if the numbers on the role at the Grammar for 2007 were the same as for 2005, the school's income for 2008 would have been approximately £400,000 more than it actually will be.

Although there can be some savings with staff redundancies, a school in the position of this one, struggling to catch up after years of slack leadership, weak discipline, disgracefully poor teaching standards and astonishing complacency in the face of lacklustre results culminating in special measures, should not be asked, as a reward for its recovery, to grapple with deficit funding.

Cuts will be needed, causing numbers to fall further, disqualifying it from gaining any government support in the post credit crunch era, for a rebuild.

Closure through lack of public support will then be threatened, if not certain.

The sites will be sold and the huge cash generated will vanish into the depleted coffers of the public purse.

Some will be promised to improve other schools and facilities in the county, but in the way of things, who can be sure?

Thus it is that many people have worked with extraordinary dedication and initiative to find a solution that will offer Midhurst Grammar and its feeder schools, especially our precious rural primaries, a quantum leap forward to a secure future.

The outcome will be the necessary quality of performance to make it the first choice of parents who want the best for their children.

Modern parents do not care what type of management structure is used to run it. They just want a decent school.

Parents who are able to take advantage of the right to choose where they send their children will make.or break the future of education in Midhurst.

Planning needs to reflect this reality, not some fly-blown dogma.

Yet we are told the Rev Boxley and his supporters, harking back to the slapdash era of the school's dark days, are campaigning with a catalogue of ideological objections to the one clear opportunity for a - brighter future for our young people now in the course of preparation.

They hanker after the discredited notion that public control is best, clutching with sad dedication to the dying embers of a failed ideology well past its sell-by date and abandoned even by the Labour Party.

The local community now has a choice before it.

Either back NAME and risk losing secondary education in Midhurst altogether, or throw its weight behind a bold initiative which will be good for our young people, who come first and above everything, good for the dedicated teachers who are showing what can be done, and good for the town and its surrounding area.

Malcolm Blair-Robinson
ex-governor, Midhurst Grammar School

Anonymous said...

West Sussex County Council is well on the path to closing Midhurst Grammar School and its two intermediate schools and building a new, privatised Academy instead.

The likely sponsor to run the Academy is the United Learning Trust (ULT).

ULT is a Church of England charity dedicated to educating children into that particular religion.

If you are a Church of Englandgoing parent, this change of direction may be welcome. But what about the other parents? The Roman Catholics? The Jews? The Muslims? The Hindus? The Pagans? The Humanists? Rationalists and Secularists?

What choice do they have? Transport their children considerable distances out of the area?

Or accept they will be immersed five days a week in the ethos, atmosphere and bias of a particular religion; brain-washed rather than given an open education.

Our stated national aim is to be a multi-cultural society where all cultures and beliefs can live together in tolerance, respect and peace.

This Academy project can only be divisive.

There are other factors against the West Sussex County Council project. To build a large Academy on the smaller, less-open intermediate site in Easebourne can only lead to intensification of traffic problems; are you listening, Cllr Pemberton?

Why destroy a 300-year-old seat of learning in the middle of Midhurst where £2m has just been spent on a new sports centre? What a waste.

And what is going to happen to that site? Sold to Tesco?

No. Please give your support to the NAME (No Academy in Easebourne or Midhurst) campaign; it can be contacted on the website

Jake Wright
Stane Street, Halnaker

Anonymous said...

THE CORRESPONDENCE in the Observer concerning the alteration of the status of Midhurst Grammar School to an Academy has all been deeply interesting, and no doubt the ramifications of this change will all be well argued.

I only hope the legacy of the history of Midhurst Grammar School and the lasting influence of the famous headmaster, NBC Lucas, from 1938 to 1967, who achieved superb academic results, but more importantly made a priority towards the building of the pupils' character which still exists within the school, will remain.

While academic achievement is important, personal development of character and attitude of pupils are just as important.

To change Midhurst Grammar School to academic status would cause enormous upheaval to all schools in the catchment area and create a huge financial commitment to future generations if PFI was to be employed in raising the finance.

One cannot help but come to the conclusion the Academy scheme is totally irresponsible.

C Castle
Orchard Close, Petworth

Anonymous said...

I AM CONCERNED at any suggestion Midhurst Grammar School may be rebuilt in Easebourne as an Academy.

I am a retired local primary school teacher whose grandparents came to Midhurst in the early 1920s.

There are two issues here: the siting of the new school and its management.

The historic grammar school forms part of the distinctiveness of the local community. The new school should be built in its present site, in Midhurst.

It should be publicly-owned and publicly-managed. The education of our children is too important for it to be influenced by a private organisation.

Wendy Ellis

Anonymous said...

Schools must wait to hear their fate

PRIMARY schools throughout the Midhurst and Petworth area have a nail-biting two-week wait to hear whether they face the threat of closure in the next round of education shake-up proposals.

West Sussex County Council unveiled its controversial proposal for an academy style secondary school in the Midhurst area a fortnight ago.

The proposal forms part of the far-reaching plans to replace the current three-tier schooling system in the Rother Valley with allthrough primary schools and a single transfer to secondary schooling at the age of 11.

The lead option for secondary schooling announced by Cabinet member of education Mark Dunn and director Robert Back is a state-of-the-art newly-built Academy in the Midhurst area. As yet, the preferred location has not been made public

But primary school teachers, parents and children are still waiting to hear where the axe will fall. This week a WSCC spokesman said the new proposals were not expected until after the half-term holiday.

The county council is planning to publish its latest round of proposals in a public consultation booklet which will be circulated to schools when they return from the half-term holiday in the week beginning February 25. A period of around six weeks' consultation is expected to follow, which will include public meetings.

Rother Valley schooling will be the subject of a special session at the next meeting of the North Chichester County Local Committee in Lodsworth Village Hall on March 18.

It will begin with a 'talk with us' event from 3pm to 5pm and on the agenda will be the education shake-up proposals and options.

Meanwhile, campaigners fighting the setting-up of an academy have called a public meeting to take place in Easebourne Refectory on February 28 at 7 pm.

They believe the county council intends to build the academy at Wheelbarrow Castle in Easebourne, currently home to Midhurst Intermediate school.

Midhurst & Petworth Observer
14th February 2008, page 1

Trabb's Boy said...

Someone has anonymously posted the Midhurst and Petworth letters from this week, as well as the front page article. SO if you haven't had access to the paper, the following 9 "comments" are in fact, from the paper.
(Thank you anonymous)

Trabb's Boy said...

Ok, I'm working on this.
My previous comment about the anonymous posts was supposed to precede the anonymous comments. And I am sure that there were nine of them.

Terry Teacher said...

"We are the future". "This is non-negotiable" and "There is no alternative" seem to be the mantra of the authoritarian supporters of academies. No wonder they want a system where the views of parents and teachers will not matter. Imagine what sort of management they would be!

jane said...

Questions for anyone supporting the Academy idea:
1) When students are excluded where will they go? - Academies can get rid of students much more easily than community schools;
2) If there are any teachers who look forward to a nice new building, yes, there will be TUPE but for how long? What will stop a restructuring within the first year? Also an academy trick.
3) If you are a parent, how will you complain if you are unhappy with the curriculum or behaviour, etc? If you do complain to the Academy, will you be worried that the backlash will fall on your child - are you confident enough to ask for a judicial review or to appeal to Ed Balls?

Trabb's Boy said...

Excellent questions Jane, thank you! We'll be sure that parents and staff consider these. I think lots of teachers have been assuaged by TUPE promises, but with 3 schools into 1, there are going to be many casualties of the TUPE offer. And as you say, once the sponsor has control, they can re-structure as they wish. Exclusions would be a real issue here because this is not a "city academy", the nearest secondary is 11 miles away!

Anonymous said...

Hasn't the county council a right to provide education to the children of the Rother Valley- won't it cost them a fortune to transport children around the county to other Secondary schools - therefore how can these people say that there will not be Secondary Education in Midhurst / Rother Valley if an Academy is not accepted! Our children are being forgotten in this decision to have an Academy - they are what is important.