Bristol education: even the kids have given up hope

The number of pupils who played truant from Bristol secondary schools last year was almost double the national average. And it has been claimed that 2006-07 could go down as the worst ever school year on record for secondaries in the city, following the release of new figures.

Says the Evening Cancer heralding yet another expensive disaster for Bristol City Council’s education department. Since 2005 – after a School Attendance Select Committee had spent over a year meeting together to suggest ways to improve truancy rates – the city council has spent a fortune establishing an Attendance Change Team and launching various initiatives to improve school attendance.

This has included expenditure on the usual overpriced must-have IT software for techno-fix purposes; expenditure on a very well paid and clearly underperforming Attendance Initiatives Officer; vast sums paid out on a total failure of a marketing campaign – Every Day Counts and even more money forked out for various glossy leaflets to give to parents, kids and teachers on regular basis.

And what do our glorious education leaders have to say about their latest failure? Well in the case of our £140k a year education director – who is directly responsible for this – sweet fuck all. As usual, when there’s bad news, Heather is simply nowhere to be seen or heard.

Meanwhile Labour’s education boss Derek Pickup is left mouthing one of the daftest excuses of all time: “It’s not that the figures are actually rising, the reason for any increase is because we are using more robust systems to measure absence,” he bleats.

Is Pickup really claiming there’s a more robust method of measuring absence than the good old-fashioned class register? In which case what is it exactly? Or is he claiming that the city council has only just introduced class registers? I think we should be told.

The city’s official spokeswoman on education Kate Hartas came out with an entirely different excuse to Pickup’s – nothing like consistency of message is there? She claimed the figures could not be compared to last year’s because they only covered part of the year and had not been fully checked!

Jesus. They really think we’re stupid don’t they? Do they really think we believe this bollocks? Why can’t they just face up to the issues, admit there’s a problem and say how they’re gonna deal with it rather than come out with these unbelievably pisspoor PR excuses every time?

Perhaps they should start by ending the blame free culture in the education department and identifying the people who have failed to deliver on the truancy issue over the last few years and ensuring some heads roll?

So who’s the well-paid senior council officer responsible for truancy then?

That’d be Attendance and Behaviour Consultant right?

Uh huh . . .

Who’s that then?

Er, Esther Pickup-Keller, wife of Labour education supremo Derek Pickup!

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15 Responses to Bristol education: even the kids have given up hope

  1. Bluebaldee says:

    Sack Tomlinson, Batchelaar, the Pickups and employ a donkey called Reg to operate the whole sheebang.

    He couldn’t possibly do any worse.

    Oh, and while we’re at it – the BBC claims that Children’s Services is £2.2 million overbudget:

    So whose head is going to roll for that? That’s right, no-one’s.

    Instead they’re closing Kingsdon Manor Special School and turning Florence Brown into a day centre.

    Incompetent fuckwits in Bristol’s education service?

    Right, let’s take it out on the special needs kids.

  2. thebristolblogger says:

    £2.2m is about a year’s spend on senior managers and their cast of supporting consultants . . .

  3. Littleconfused says:

    You’ll find that the person in charge of truancy reduction is actually one of the senior management team, ‘recruited’ from Connexions (that wonderful organisation that achieves so much…) earning 70k+ and working hard on this issue for 3 years. What track record did they have before they hopped from Connexions straight into this top job, which was never advertised.

  4. Overayard says:


    They also intend to put kids with Special Needs on the buses. This will shave £500k off the transport budget AND integrate children into the community more. I laughed out loud.

    As they used to say (ish), “Double Consultants all round!”

  5. BristleKRS says:

    They also intend to put kids with Special Needs on the buses

    What, as drivers? That would be the sort of cost-cutting move I could well imagine the First bosses dreaming up 😀

  6. Bluebaldee says:

    BB and Overayard,

    A long time ago I temped for BCC’s transport services.

    Special Needs kids frequently exhibit challenging behaviour and many of them needed escorts to ensure that they got to school without disrupting/injuring themselves and others. These escorts did a very difficult and valuable job for shite money, ensuring that the kids arrived at school safely and calmly.

    In my opinion it borders on the criminal that both the escorts and the kids themselves are going to suffer because of the sheer idiocy of the CYPS’ senior management team and their inability to run an education service effectively and to budget.

    Putting vulnerable kids in an unfamiliar and crowded environment with no guarantee that their bus will actually turn up (these are First buses, after all) just to save money that’s been squandered by cretins is a disgrace and grossly negligent.

    Why can’t heads roll at CYPS – surely in any other organisation such rank incompetence would be rewarded with a P45?

  7. I think truancy is high because kids find school boring and uninspiring (I know I did and I played truant massively when I was 13/14/15).

    The national curriculum straightjacket does not help and neither does the poorly motivated and disorganised teaching I’ve experienced with my daughter. Policies on bullying are also farcical.

    Give kids more choice about what they study and how ( we have great techmology to help with this now). Give them more of a stake and more power over what happens in schools and how. Get real about the cultures prevalent in young people and work with them to sort problems out.

    Certainly do not pay out hundreds of thousands/millions of pounds on ‘top down’ so-called solutions, consultants, and senior council officers….

  8. thebristolblogger says:

    does the Green Party believe Tomlinson should go? Do they have a policy on this? Should you get one?

    It would be nice if at least one party mirrored public opinion on this.

  9. I’d like to see her go. I’ll see what others Greens think and get back to you.

  10. Overayard says:

    Shouldn’t take that long!

  11. After some discussion no Green consensus on Tomlinson going I’m afraid. I’d like to get rid of all overpaid, underachieving senior council officers personnally.

  12. thebristolblogger says:

    Fancy that. No party in the Council House that represents the view of a very large proportion of people in the city.
    The turnout at the last local election was about 34%.
    Are these two things by any chance related?

  13. Overayard says:

    Some interesting figures from the Department for Children, Schools and Families for 2007..

    21.4% of children in Bristol aged 11+ go to schools for other LEAs.

    Children living in Bristol going to Independent Schools 21.1%.

    Level of absence in Secondary Schools 9.8%.

    So over 50% of Bristol children are not in Bristol schools.

  14. Pingback: Direktive from ze Heatherbunker « The Bristol Blogger

  15. Lance Fannegn says:

    The blog seems to be quite figure orientated and unfortunately I do not have anything new to bring to the table and I actually quite agree with half of what is being said about how much money has been spent. However the whole campaign is about raising awareness (whether it is from leaflets or incentives for the kids) and from the comments on this website it has managed just that!

    This was always going to be a difficult project to manage and I would be interested to see what jobs you carry out that are making the difference to our communities.
    At the end of the day truancy is a problem because we no longer have strong communities. No one is supporting each other, families don’t care about anyone else, they wont tell ‘Jenny at No 5 if her son/daughter has been seen in town sipping cider’ and all anyone seems to care about is finding the best holiday deal, sodding the fact if it is in term time!

    The sad thing about all of this is the families that have kids playing truant are statically ‘working class’ (ooh sorry for using a taboo phrase) and those families have enough to deal with, without having to worry about their children on top of that!
    If their kids go or pretend to go to school, they don’t care as long as they aren’t hanging around getting in the way.

    Connexions offer lots of hope and support to kids who may not always get the attention they need. They are taken on day trips, given swimming lessons and cinema trips, offered counselling on how to deal with abusive and/or drug addict parents and most importantly giving them hope that the future might be a bit brighter than it is now.

    In terms of the money wasted/lost, the government has made bigger mistakes which don’t need addressing now and as the saying goes you have to spend money to make money. The project has been running for 3 years and like any new project errors will be made but are they truly unfixable? Have they not learned and now know what to improve on?

    I am not sure if the above has come across too personal however I will end it so. This statement “very well paid and clearly underperforming Attendance Initiatives Officer; vast sums paid out on a total failure of a marketing campaign – Every Day Counts and even more money forked out for various glossy leaflets to give to parents, kids and teachers on regular basis.” I believe to be unkind and unfair, take a look at your jobs – Do they give anything back to the world?

    Thanks for reading.

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