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Parental choice of school in the World Heritage city of Bath 2010

Politicians promised parental choice. Giving parents a choice is a little difficult to achieve in Bath as there are seven secondary schools: two boys and two girls schools and three mixed schools. Two of the mixed schools are denominational, Catholic and Cof E. Geographically, the schools are sensibly placed or would be if they were all mixed schools.

Closing one school, apparently the school that has been identified for closure is Culverhay, a boys school, will mean that the geographical balance will be destroyed. Pupils from Culverhay would need to be bussed to other schools in a city where there is already severe congestion. Culverhay was last inspected by OFSTED in May 2009. the school gained a grade of 2 Good across all areas of inspection. The highest grade is 1 Outstanding. Here is a short extract from the inspectors report:

"Students enter the school with standards that are consistently below average. In relation to their starting points, students progress well and achievement is good. Students regularly exceed the challenging targets set by the school. The excellent progress made by students in Year 11 relative to their starting points placed the school in the top 6% of schools nationally in 2008 for achievement. Pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities and those who are vulnerable make progress at least as good as their peers because of good provision. The school's latest analysis of performance, coursework assessments and externally assessed tests for 2009 suggests that students are on track to achieve even better results by the end of this academic year."

A spokesman from the school said:  I think the main thing that concerns us is that Culverhay serves the most deprived area of Bath and it is going to cause considerable financial hardship for our parents to have to send their children elsewhere, not to mention the lack of coordination with the council's desire to get more pupils to walk to school.

Closing Culverhay Boys School is disruptive to both the boys their parents and the staff. It is short sighted as the population may increase, is bound to increase isn't it?.  There will be once again overcrowded classes occupying cramped school sites. In the case of Culverhay School it will have to reopen or be rebuilt.  This will be expensive. But a school is not just a building but it is a living entity, closing a school destroys what cannot be seen and disperses the energy that was put into the school.  

The existing provision is far from ideal; Hayesfield Girls School for example has a split site location with a parking problem for staff, who might have to commute twice or more a day between sites or move their cars to avoid a parking fine!

There is an alternative, keep all the schools open but change their status to mixed (co-educational for transatlantic readers). This is relatively easy and would be fairer for parents. Oldfield and Hayesfield? Girls School has a mixed sixth form that works well.

It all sounds to me to favour no one but the builders.  Bath has spent a vast fortune on rebuilding and on the daft project to recreate an inferior Roman Spa and place it on top of a building. For cheapness the architects chose paint rather than tiles, and then the paint turned out to be wrong. It's so idiotic it's not worth debating.  So I suppose, to close some schools presents a golden opportunity to save a few quid.

The city has new supermarkets planned and under construction for a population that is apparently not growing as the school population is shrinking (at present). maybe the desire for procreation is being replaced by an increased appetite for food and drink. Or maybe the supermarkets have become warring tribes that compete for customers. The supermarkets are mainly located centrally, attracting more cars into the city central area. Planners should be trying to reduce motor traffic not approving projects that will attract more traffic or force people to travel by motorised transport to get to school or work, or to shop.

Does Bath really care for those who work there and live there? Take the case of the Royal United Hospital. The hospital charges its staff over £300 a year to park their cars, which I gather is a sort of punishment for not being able to get to their workplace by public transport. A policy approach that ignores the fact that only the rich can afford to actually live in Bath. 

When frugal Wiltshire is having to consider closing swimming pools and raise rates, where is the national vision to apply proper control to these incompetent councils. It is not there! It wasn't there with the last Government and it is not here with the new Government, unless I am missing something.

Good luck to all the staff of all the schools involved, at least one can be sure of one thing in education that is the teachers and their schools care for all their pupils in spite of politicians short sighted decisions.

Posted on 23 Jul 2010 by Geoff Edwards

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