Thursday, 22 May 2008

The Herbie

We are absolutely gutted to hear about the situation that has arisen at Herbert Shiner School. It is an appalling situation for parents, staff and most of all the students. The decision taken is not one that could have been easy or pleasant, so our sympathies go out to those who had to make it, too. However, we feel that the situation might have been foreseen, and that is the source of anger and frustration. The handling of the Rother Valley upheaval has directly led to Herbert Shiner having to close its doors in less than two months' time.

The argument seems to be that the teaching shortage is some sort of natural by-product of change and Petworth's rural location. To be sure, there would be a turn-over in an age-of-transfer change. Whenever there is great change in circumstance, there are some changes of staff. That is to be expected. However, if like any other school, there was some lead-in time, the changes could be managed and managed well. The Rother Valley has not been allowed this fundamental opportunity. We believe in the competency and skill of those who can help our schools do well and even to manage change; but we also believe that the time-scale is a monumental (possibly insurmountable) hurdle which means that we don't get the best out of the situation. Make no mistake about it, the academy proposal has created a number of preventable and unwanted outcomes. Staff leave schools- it happens every year. This situation in Petworth now is not typical. Despite the impression given by the principal of Swindon (who was recognised as a very good leader and maybe people wanted to work for her), teachers up and down the country are not chomping at the bit to work at an academy. Far fewer teachers still would want to sign up for a job where they don't even know who their employer will be, or what their salary, terms and conditions may be. I wouldn't. We have heard about a few teachers interested in applying for secondary school teachers jobs here... until they heard it may be an academy.

Fortunately, there are people still in the system, and they are dedicated to making the best they can for the children in their care. We wish them every luck and are rooting for them and the kids, even if we're decidedly opposed to the academy.

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