It’s looking like headless chicken time down at the Counts Louse as Bristol City Council attempts to be seen to be doing something about the primary admissions crisis. On the surface there seems to be a lot going on. But what is it all actually about?
For instance, the Children’s Services Scrutiny Commission meeting next Monday is packed with primary admissions items.
New education exec, Clare Campion-Smith assures us in her first Executive Member report (pdf) that, “resolving the significant and important issue of primary school admissions has been a key priority for the new administration”. Unfortunately detail on how she might achieve this is noticeably scarce.
Item 14 (pdf) on the agenda is ‘Arrangements for first admission to primary and infant schools in Septmeber (sic) 2009’.
The item is accompanied by a document so long, opaque, complex, confused and bureaucratic you may well find yourself agreeing with James Barlow, who questions the value of having an authority responsible for the centralised planning and control of our schools and their admissions. Instead he wonders whether schools working independently and looking after themselves might serve us better.
If you still have the will to live after item 14 then you can always make your way to item 15 (pdf) – ‘School Admissions – How Can We Deliver Fairer Access?’.
This long series of disjointed notes taken from an exclusive seminar on school admissions held on 10 March for the great and good of the city’s education establishment creates a lot more heat than light but does contain this useful observation courtesy of Marius Frank, Head of Bedminster Down School:
In October, a landmark meeting took place, between Principles, Headteachers and Governors from every Secondary School and Academy in Bristol, along with senior council and educational officials.
People were asked to share their reflections with the group. Roger White stood up in turn, and stated that when every person in the room sent their sons and daughters to Bristol state schools, this would send a powerful signal to all Bristol parents that change has arrived. Roger sends his children to Ashton Park School, where he is also a Governor. You could have heard a pin drop. There was much gazing at feet and then shuffling on chairs. Clearly, this was a social challenge too far for the august group gathered there, but, in an instant, the silence defined Bristol’s problems: we remain a socially divided city.
There it is then. The people in charge, taking all the decisions, spending all the money and poncing around at upmarket seminars aren’t even using the schools they insist on running. What better indictment of a rotten, failing system is there?
Possibly this: the minutes of the hastily arranged meeting between parents, who don’t have a school place for their five year olds in September, and various city council education big wigs last Monday.
Here’s the highlights:
The Authority is fully committed to get it right and offered parents an unreserved apology for the current situation.
The local authority failed to communicate with parents clearly.
LA failed to ensure sufficient capacity of school places prior to advising parents the outcome of their school application on 30th January 2009.
LA needs to improve data collection informing school place planning and manage funds available.
LA is resolved to get it right for Reception 2010 intake and learn from mistakes this year.
This year LA has been overwhelmed by demand for school places in certain area of the city.
The immediate problem is a significant increase in demand for school places over the supply and really the LA should have known about this.
Confirmed that 5% – 9% more 3 and 4 year old requiring places than anticipated.
Surely something has to give here? We’re paying out millions a year for a desperately failing bureaucratic educational management structure, where those who run it make a good living while those who use it suffer.
Meanwhile the only proposals emerging from the Counts Louse are more of the same. Is that what we need?
Decentralisation seems like a healthy, natural solution to all these problems we have which are caused by the overweight, centralised bureaucracies so beloved by statists of all kinds, who never cease crying for government to magically solve all our problems. But don’t forget that the flipside of decentralisation is diversity – different people and organisations have very different cultural outlooks, behave very differently, producing very different outcomes. Call this resulting diversity a postcode lottery if you like, but don’t winge if and when you get it.
“Roger White stood up in turn, and stated that when every person in the room sent their sons and daughters to Bristol state schools, this would send a powerful signal to all Bristol parents that change has arrived.”
” …the silence defined Bristol’s problems: we remain a socially divided city.”
Pants, maybe the silent was “not that again.” I do not care if those running the education system send their kids to Harrow and feed them nothing but roast swan. All I wanted and still want from my kids is good local schools for my kids, if they can deliver that then well done.
Its the decisions that are wrong at the moment.
Also I don’t know Roger White from Adam, but please not that old chestnut. Another way to look at his situation is ” educational insider sends his kids to local school where he is a significant individual.”
To paraphrase H. L. Mencken: “Those who can do, those who can’t teach – or work for Bristol City Council.” 😉
I think it’s those that can do; those who can’t teach and everyone else works for the council.
My granny’s version:
Those that can, do.
Those that can’t, teach.
Those that can’t teach become politicians.
The rest work for the council.
Joking aside this is a real worry for many parents. The ridiculous “let them eat cake” attitude from the previous administration has been a disaster. We are now trying to address the problem but we have no magic wand. Places have been referred to but it seems the schools were not involved. Temporary classrooms are not good but at short notice they may be better than sending children half way around Bristol on the bus.
I enjoy a joke at the Bristol Labour party fools as much as anybody but the real worries should not be forgotten.
Gary could not agree with you more.
The issue for me is that there has never been atime where more money has been spent on education and still they can not get it right.
The people in City Hall can not get there heads around the simplest issue, getting the right number of places in schools for our kids. The excuses I can remember are sorry we were concentrated on raisind standards in secondary schools (sic) and this one its all the middle classes fault for not sending their kids to crap schools.
“The issue for me is that there has never been atime where more money has been spent on education and still they can not get it right.”
Which clearly demonstrates, once again, that shortage of money is not the problem.
trust Ole Hopkins to pop up – wonder what happened in 2006 and before when the Liberals ran the place. Hapless Jos and her crew. Shambles then.
lest we forget – Labour were only in charge because the liberals refused to run the council – they are to blame for everything Labour has done. A Pox on them all.
The Liberal Democrats are all window lickers, and the Wright Institute is in Berkeley Vote Labour.
The culture of an institution like BCC grows over many years. Over many years an inward looking self satisfied attitude was allowed to build up because of a complete lack of challenge from councillors in charge.
Lib Dems had 2 years as a minority 05/07 but whilst good progress was made in some areas others sucsessfully resisted change.
You cannot sort out all the deepseated problems straight away but some of the changes we put in place 2 years ago have not been killed by the 20 months of Lab/Con. We are starting to rev things up again but clearly we have some immediate messes to clear up and need a year or 2 before we can fully root out some of the cultural problems.
Why would you want to fight to get your kid into a Bristol Primary School? They are the 3rd worst schools in the England.